JWST 125 Building Jewish Identity: Secular Judaism in Historical Perspective

The starting point for our investigation of a distinctively secular Jewish conception of the world will be the fact that roughly on behalf of the American Jewish population possesses a secular non-religious orientation (American Jewish Identity Survey, 2001). How did this non-religious orientation arise amongst what many people consider to be a religious community? We will explore how certain non-religious features, such as shared culture, language, custom, dress, and education played an integral part in the definition of Jews and Judaism from their inception, and the rol eplaed by these features in the constitution of variant secular forms of Judaism and secular Jewish orientations in the modern period.