Thursday, December 11, 2008

Religious and secular - the parallel worlds of Israeli Jews

Those who don't live in Israel, especially non-Jews, have a hard time to realize how profoundly Israeli Jewish population is divided between the religious and the secular. The differences are felt acutely by pretty much everyone. I sensed it very powerfully when I began wearing skirts and long sleeves (which is typical for religious women) - the entire attitude of people surrounding me has changed. Those who used to be friendly, became suspicious. Those who previously avoided looking at me, suddenly treated me as "one of us". Men will also be labeled accordingly, if they are wearing a kippa.

And I'm not even going into the sub-divisions of which kippa that is, its material, size and color, whether the man is wearing a traditional black suit and hat (diagnosis of the secular population: "complete religious freak") or just normal everyday clothes (diagnosis: "slightly tweaked in the brain"); for women, length of skirt; whether a woman is also wearing stockings and a wig, or a head scarf or hat (if she is married), and how many hairs are sticking out.

The secular Jew is largely a modern phenomenon; if you are a young Jew in your 20's or 30's, your great-grandparents most likely were religiously observant - which cannot be said about the generation of our grandparents. My grandmother married a non-Jew, which would have sent her parents to the grave if they hadn't already been murdered in the Holocaust by then. The next generation retained only a vague consciousness of their heritage - mostly thanks to rampant anti-semitism which wouldn't allow them to forget they are Jewish. From what I've observed, the almost complete detachment from tradition is stronger in the Ashkenazi Jewish population than in the Sephardi, Yemenite or Ethiopian communities.

In no other place, at no other time there had been greater antagonism than right here in the modern state of Israel, between those who debate on the laws of a Sabbatical year and those who eat shrimps in a restaurant by the sea; those who keep the day of Shabbat holy, and those who drive to clubs and bars on Friday night; those who pray three times a day, and those whose foot never stepped in a synagogue; those who won't remain alone with a woman they aren't married to, and those who initiate a gay parade in the holy city of Jerusalem; those who love and welcome big families, and those who look with disgust at a family with ten children; I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

Of course, it doesn't boil down to mere differences. There are many secular Jews who know far less about Judaism than some of my non-Jewish readers here. If you haven't lived in Israel, you'll find it hard to believe the amount of ignorance, suspicion, myths, unjust criticism and even downright hatred, which is directed by the secular population towards the religious.

Examples? I have too many to share them all. Just a few tidbits from what I personally heard: "religious people are brainless robots"; "religious people get married without any affection, simply in order to breed"; "religious women are nothing more than baby machines"; "large families are a drain on society"; and my personal favorite, "Torah scholars are useless". It's beyond sad how some Jews treat their own heritage with such contempt. There is even a small community of people who shriek hysterically about how circumcision, entrance into the covenant of Abraham, is a capital crime against humanity and should be outlawed. Ironically, often those same people depart for a year or two of "soul searching" in the Far East, where they sometimes become the most enthusiastic followers of exotic religious cults.

Not long ago, I happened to read an article about breastfeeding on one of the Israeli news websites, which mentioned a dry statistical fact that religious Jewish women breastfeed at higher rates and for a much longer period of time than their secular counterparts. You cannot imagine how many hateful reactions this simple statement produced! Starting from "of course, they don't mind being enslaved to a screaming baby" to "ministry of health shouldn't be so encouraging towards breastfeeding, you see how those parasites are late in returning to work and prefer to sit on their rear end and breastfeed all day long."

I must say I was amazed how, of all things, a discussion about breastfeeding could be a source of such open hostility. Not to mention the degree of ignorance displayed; one woman actually referred to primary milk as "clostridium".

Others are simply confused about their identity. They are proud of being Jewish, but afraid to take the plunge into religious observance. They are plagued by difficult questions, such as - when we talk about "preserving the Jewish heritage", what do we mean? What, ultimately, is the source of our ownership over the land of Israel? What will I say if my child wants to marry a non-Jew one day?

All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that the secular Jew, the Jew who denies his heritage, is an empty cell. The Torah has sustained us, as a people, a nation, a community, since Mt. Sinai and until today - and nothing else ever will.


Anonymous said...

Sorry. Absolutely cannot agree with you here (and I do identify myself as religious).

A secular Jew is NOT an empty cell. I could give you a thousand quotes....but the one that comes first to mind is 'derech eretz kadma latorah': Being humane, or treating others with dignity and love, is more important than the Torah/Bible (from the writing of our sages).

I know so many religious people who are so concerned with the length of their sleeves or how many hairs are sticking out of their hat that they forget the essence of being good. I know too many orthodox people who don't think twice about cheating, on exams, or on their income tax forms...hey, they're cheating a secular institution, so it doesn't count. On the other hand, I have worked very closely with hundreds of secular students applying to schools abroad who weren't willing to lie about one single piece of information, even though they could get away with it. Who is more Jewish? Who is more upright?

What about the young ultra-orthodox men who receive an exemption from the army, to study in a yeshiva all day, even though only a small fraction of them are intellectual enough to make use of this? Are they any more Jewish than the secular soldier who sacrifices his life for his nation?

Of course, there are many religious people who are also 'mensches'. But I would never assume someone is more Jewish, or more worthy to the Jewish nation, just because he has a black kippa on his head.
The bickering and hate goes both ways. It certainly doesn't help when one categorizes the secular as empty cells. And it certainly won't bring them any closer to observing orthodox Judaism.

Mrs. Anna T said...


I think I should have made my statement clearer.

I didn't mean the secular Jew (or any secular person) is an empty cell personality-wise. He or she can be a wonderful person, and he or she is a precious child of God.

I meant that the secular Jew is an empty cell in matters of "passing the torch" of being Jewish. Do you think the Jewish people could have been preserved for so many centuries by *secular* Jews? No; without our precious faith, we would have been extinct a long time ago. That's what I tried to say.

Mrs. Anna T said...

PS: And of course, the mere fact of a man having a kippa on his head doesn't signify he's all holy and righteous. Some men wear kippas and are, for example, practicing (!) homosexuals.

Mrs. Anna T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

OK...glad I misunderstood. I guess I just took your last paragraph in the wrong direction.
I just think that the religious sector is sometimes too enthusiastic to ignore all the contributions of the secular to our nation and our history.

Ways of Zion said...


Thank you so much for this post! When we visited Israel we noticed this difference but as an outsider didn't really understand it. I wear long sleves and long skirts, a head covering most of the time,(and agree with the the religious on the issues going on...) so I found it odd how different I was treated by the 2 groups, thanks for expaining it! Simple example, walking down Ben Yehudah st, and other places surrounded by my Goons, I found that I would meet eyes with other moms who were dressed modestly with their heads covered and they would smile a greating across the road. Israel is the only place where as a young mom I didn't recieve the "wow she's young and look how weird she is dressed" looks! I felt excepted and understood! I'll never forget the great conversation we had with Yehudah in the Temple Institue over the all the simularities we share and the feeling of welcome and exceptance of us. We recieved more help with the kids (doors held open when they weren't even going into the shop we were, little treats for the children, a drink of water offered without us asking, seats offered on benches, assistance with all the many many stairs in the old city, help translating, help finding oh so many things (like a post box) and many times they didn't speak english and I didn't speak enough Hebrew. Anyways we got more help there in 3 weeks then we have in our lifetime here in Canada.

Have I mentioned I want to move!

Enjoy this special time before your bundle of joy arrives! Thinking of you!

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

You know, Anna, there is often in Christianity distinctions that parallels those you describe in Israel, particularly in the west. However, the differences are much more varied, as evidenced by the discussion on my most recent post, which you commented on.

There are those "Christians" who are thus because they were baptized as a child though they don't acknowledge or think about their faith in their daily lives. There are those who go to church on Sunday but live lives indistinguishable from the culture the other 6 days of the week. There are those who love the Lord and His word and make every effort to live each day in a way that pleases Him while acknowledging their constant failure, asking for His forgiveness and grace with each new day. There are those who also love the Lord and His word, taking a hard line on every detail of daily life based on their interpretation of Scripture, while still accepting that there are those who may see things slightly differently and love the Lord and His word as much as they themselves do. And then there are the legalists, who take a hard line on every thing and expect everyone else to do the same as evidence of their genuine faith.

I agree with you that if there is any hope of passing on a spiritual legacy to our children, we must be committed to our faith and to living it out passionately, teaching our children to do the same. Is faith that is not devout even faith at all?

Rebekka said...

**one woman actually referred to primary milk as "clostridium".**


Camellia said...


That made me laugh :D.

Bethany Hudson said...

Anna, just so you know, you and your Jewish brethren are not alone in this: Here in the United States where the majority of people are Christian, we have a similar dichotomy between "nominal" or secular Christians and the active Christian community. Even within the Church, we have a split between conservatives (usually defined by the fact that they follow the Bible explicitly) and liberals (who use the Bible as a sort of general guideline but don't adhere to it strictly). Of course, we don't have quite the burden in the Christian church of carrying on our traditions and faith that the Jewish religion has, but that's mainly because there are a lot more of us, not because we are not dealing with assimilation into the secular culture. More and more, Christians are beginning to take a cue from the Jews and band together in strong community to support each other and help parents pass on the faith to their children. But the sad fact is, many Christian treat their faith with contempt, as you mentioned of secular Jews. I think a large part of this comes from the sort of over-religiosity and legalism that Tammy referred to in her comment. Christians may like to point fingers at Jews as being legalistic, but we are just as guilt, if not more so, for the same behavior in our own community!

Just to give you a taste of what American Christian are dealing with: There's been a hulabaloo across the country due to a sign in our capitol building. Next to a manger scene depicting the birth of Jesus, an atheist group led by a former Christian minister put up a sign that said that religion "hardens hearts and enslaves minds." When asked about the sign, the former-pastor turned atheist said, "Over superstition and faith, we think reason may prevail." In a country that basically worships Enlightenement reason, this is a very polarizing statement, basically classifying religious individuals as lesser human beings incapable of true reason.


Anonymous said...

You are so brave to mention what you have. I have wondered what was going on in Israel. Here in the states, I identify most with the Orthodox, as I cannot eat pepperoni on my pizza,nor say homosexuality is okay. I guess it's all what we define as love. Hashem has set the rules for me, and I, out of love for Him, want to follow them. Like a child who loves his parents tries to follow his parents rules to show he loves them. Rebellion is not love.
While we cannot state unequivocally all Orthodox obey all of Torah, as a people, they are definitely, more concerned with preserving the Torah than the other Jews.

Erik said...

I have wondered what life would be like in Israel. Of course that would be a huge move, and everything comes in to question. Jobs, social, political (I am very freedom loving. Israel... not so much) And I am also a gentile that is Messianic, which I was informed are called the "Crazy Jews" So life over there would be, umm, interesting!

Civilla said...

I understand that to some, studying in a yeshiva all day long might seem like a waste of time, but isn't the belief in the teachings of the Hebrew Bible what MAKES you Jewish? I always thought that Jewish people were "people of the Book". Being Jewish is more than just an ethnic identity, isn't it? I have American Jewish friends who don't go to synagogue or practice their religion in any way other than holidays.

My husband and I have read Chaim Potok's books. We were amazed at how, at least in these fiction books, the religiously liberal Jewish characters gave money to support the Hasidic Jews, so that they would keep the Jewish traditions and religious learning alive, even though the liberal Jewish people were not interested in practicing the traditions or studying their literature very much themselves.

Long Live Israel. NEVER AGAIN (a holocaust)!!!

Beth M. said...

There is a similar divide in the Christian community, though I have not seen anywhere near the degree of public hatred you describe. However, I do personally become frustrated with the large number of people who claim to be Christians, but ignore the majority of Biblical teachings. Why do these people bother? Why call yourself a Christian (or Jew or any other religion) if you aren't going to take it seriously? If they don't care enough to attend church once a week, how much of a Christian are they really?

Jennifer said...

The difference you mentioned are very similar to what I have found being a conservative Christian. I, too, wear long dresses, cover my head, we homeschool, we have "many" children (we have only 5), and so on and so on. We take the Bible literally and we strive to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. And yet we are totally misunderstood. No one asks us why we do things the way we do. They just assume things. And that's not even touching on the the Christian people in the community who we offend, yet I have no idea why. We have never, ever said as much, but I get the feeling, by comments that have been made, that they see us as more "holy" or "righteous" then they are and take offense. It's makes me very sad, because I need the Lord's grace just as much as anyone! And I certainly do not think I'm any better then the next person!

So it's not just limited to your society there. It's here too. Our country has the history of being a Christian nation, founded upon Christian principles, so most people would put themselves into the category, if asked, of being a Christian. And yet, by the looks of our society, most people certainly ARE NOT following what the Bible teaches.

We are an oddity, that's for sure. Actually, the only place that I have gone to and have NOT felt "out of place", was in Washington D.C. where the Muslim population is great, the women are covered far more than even I am and they have many children. Go figure!

Jennifer D

Deanna said...

Dearest Anna,
I so enjoy your post/BLOG. Please keep writing. May the Lord richly bless you and your husband with much happiness and joy each day as you parent your new baby that's on the way.

What can you tell me about the Jewish people that have the ORACLES of G-D in their DNA? Out of respect for your Jewish beliefs, I will refrain from typing out the O where I spelt the Almighty with a -.

I have the understanding that even if a Jewish person lives the secular lifestyle, they are still blessed and substained because of their DNA which has the ORACLES of the Almighty in it.

People are not always honorable and faithful in keeping their word.
The Almighty is faithful. Though people are not, HE is. The Jewish people are HIS chosen people and have the ORACLES of G-D in them weither they know it or not. The test of time shows that HE is faithful all the time and HE is not one to lie. HE honors HIS word.

So the great contributions that secular Jews have given are because of the ORACLES of the Almighty that are in their DNA, not due to being kind, creative individuals.

Would love to read a response from you on this one.
Thank you,
Deanna from the Kansas Flinthills.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing that interesting perspective, Anna. I know it can be harder for American Jews too, but I think the division is maybe not so stark as it is in Israel. I do know that a secular person here who even toys with orthodoxy is generally in for some harsh words from the family - even if the family is passionate about their Jewish identity. It's seems like more of a problem in the Jewish world than Christian. We're Catholic, and more observant than our Christian families. They may think we're a bit goofy at times, but they don't write us off to the same degree as our Jewish friends seem to experience. We haven't had any harsh words from anyone. It makes me sad for my friend, to feel he has to choose between family and faith.

Anyway, also just wanted to say I am so excited to see your due date counting down. Hope everything is going well!


Becky said...

Thank you for sharing! I found this post to be very interesting.

It is very sad to hear about how religious Jews seem to be almost looked down upon. It reminds me a little of how "religious" Christians are looked at here in the United States (though it sounds even worse in Isreal).

The breastfeeding comments are horrible! Haven't these people heard of all of the statistics showing that breastfeeding is better for the baby?

Laura said...

I have thought about this before. People make their choices based on what they think is the best evidence and logic. When other people take the same evidence and make a different choice, there are only a few conclusions to make. Those 'other' people are either foolish, or contrary, or else you are mistaken.

Now, if you believe very fervently in your choice, and find it an obvious choice, those first two options seem more and more likely. And it is hard to respect people that you think are either very stupid or very selfish and willful. I think on both sides of the religious debate, this disrespect becomes evident.

In this case faith is the choice. And in Israel the secular people and the religious people are tied together by their common stake in the country are afraid of the incomprehensible choices or the other side and how they might effect everyone. I can imagine that there is a lot of tension.

I think the answer is to see that the choice to have religious faith is not just an intellectual choice, it is in some sense an aesthetic choice, it is about the special quality of how you want your life to be, not just a simple true/false, like some secular people feel. And I don't mean to trivialize religion by presenting it in that way. Just, I think it is a description that works and is not patronizing to either side.

If everybody saw it this way, I think there would still be some fear, but maybe also more respect.

Karen said...

Fascinating post. It's always very interesting to me to learn about a different culture.

Dirtdartwife said...

I believe that for anyone that practices their faith (regardless of what it may be), those are the ones that are able to put their trust and faith into something greater than themselves. People that tend to be more secular are also ones that tend to put themselves first and see themselves as very dependent and capable- almost to the point of deifying themselves thus no need for a God.

On a side note, I find it ironic (in a sad way) that those I've run across that are very hyper-anti-circumcision are the same ones that are pro-abortion. I've heard people accuse parents of child abuse for having their son circumcised but they'll defend the right of a woman to kill her child.

Anonymous said...

as a Chistian I support anything that Israel stands for.

You are the Chosen Ones of God and the apple of His eye.

May the name of Israel be blessed forever. Amen

ROSIE said...


As always, I appreciate the loving way in which you approach a myriad of potentially very charged topics!! :)

I am a Christian, but I see this conflict between secular/nominal faith and deep, abiding, practiced faith in every religion and every denomination.

How are we to pass an abiding faith to our children if we hypocritically do not live what we believe?? I have known so very many individuals who have rejected their faith as "hypocritical" because their parents lived it in a very secular, nominal way only. A real tragedy, especially considering how much God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us!!

God bless,

Anonymous said...

You know, In almost everything you said, if you were to replace "Jew" with "Christian" you would be describing America to a T. I think the religion of "secularism" (atheism) is much stronger and a bigger threat than we have ever given them credit for.

Laree said...

I am not Jewish, but have noticed the same type of division in Christian communities. If you were to speak to the two families nearest to our house all of us would label ourselves Christian, but when you look closely there are many extreme differences. For example, it is the holiday season for us, the time of celebrating our savior’s birth, and traditionally families decorate their houses to make them inviting and express the joy of His coming. Of the three of us one household belongs to a (distant) branch of religion that doesn’t celebrate any of the holy days, another house is covered with a flamboyant amount of secular decorations and lights and then there is our home which we decorate with simple candles and a nativity. Similar to your sleeves and head covering, because of my choice of a stricter observance I am looked at as a ‘religious nut’ or a ‘bible thumper’. My hope is that through our example we can revive that part of peoples souls that call out for God to be recognized and revered.

Mrs Mills said...

Another great post Anna, and one of the reasons I like your blog so much is because it helps me learn about Jewish life. I always thought that Jewish people would be more likely to stick together despite differences in observance (or lack thereof) after all the horrors of WW11. It would be a lot more helpful if everyone could get along, but I could say the same for Christians as well. Thank you for your insight into your culture and congratulations on your upcomimg addition to your family:)

Aelwyn said...

Dennis Prager, a radio personality here in the US, has some interesting insights into the secular Jewish mind. He says that part of the reason so many American Jews have rejected their faith is that it is perceived as "unintellectual."

Mrs. Anna T said...


I'm not sure who would define "messianic gentiles" as Jews. As far as I'm informed, they are simply Christians who observe some (or many) Jewish traditions.


You are right by saying secular Jews retain great, great potential... but without faith, it can be destructive (Karl Marx anyone??). I blogged about it not long ago actually...

Erik said...


I meant, from what I was told, that Messianic Jews are called the crazy Jews. I can imagine from what you have written here (and I have been told much the same by others) that I might fit in less well over there than here. I have more in common with people like yourself then would be outwardly apparent, but would likely be lumped (by others) into some middle ground between groups. In that way I guess it'd feel like home (o=

MarkyMark said...


Thankfully, my brother brought his computing into the 21st Century, and got rid of dial-up! Here are my thoughts on this...

You know, what you just said about Israel, and her population's abandonment of her religious heritage could be said about America too; just substitute Christian for Jewish, and you'd be describing modern day America! The comments that Observant Jews over there hear are almost IDENTICAL to what Christian fundamentalists in America hear.

As you may know, America was founded as a predominantly Christian nation; our Faith dictated everything we did, much like your faith does with you. Now, like your nation, we are secular; like you, we are culturally divided. I could say more, but I need to eat. Have a good day...


Anonymous said...

I have to say that the schism between secular “Christians” and religious Christians does not pose the same sort of difficulty as the divide between secular Jews and religious Jews. The reason is that there is really no such thing as a secular, or ethnic, Christian. Judaism is unique because there are ethnic Jews and then there are religious Jews. Many times the two categories overlap (i.e., you’re both an ethnic and a religious Jew), but sometimes they don’t. Secular Jews are usually ethnic, but not religious, Jews.

Christianity is not genetic. If your mother is a Christian, what does that matter? You are not a Christian until you choose to be one, and if you stop following Jesus, then you’re not a Christian any more. What America has is not religious Christians and secular Christians. America has Christians and people who claim to be Christians but actually aren’t. Perhaps these could be called cultural Christians; but at its heart, Christianity is a religion, and so there is no such thing as “secular Christianity.” Secular Jews, by contrast, are still Jews.

In terms of the tension between religious Jews and secular Jews in Israel, I really think it goes both ways. There is suspicion and disdain by the religious Jews toward the secular Jews, as well as suspicion and disdain by the secular Jews toward the religious Jews. Mrs. T has demonstrated both of these biases admirably in her post (Anna, I mean no disrespect).

As far as Tammy’s point, the Christian Scriptures speak to what you say. Romans 2:28-29 states, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

However, I don’t think one person is ever really “more Jewish” than another person; either one is a Jew or is not a Jew, though there are the distinctions of religious and secular to think of. The question of whether one person might be of more value to the Jewish community as a whole than others might be, however, remains to be answered. Certainly religious Jews tend to propagate Jewish culture/numbers more prolifically than secular Jews, but I don’t think any person can really judge the true impact of one group versus another...or that it's wise/useful to try.

Also, I think the only people who think “Messianic Jews” or “Messianic Gentiles” are Jews are “Messianic Jews.” Most/all Jews are messianic, of course (in the sense of believing in a messiah), but the group identifying as “Messianic Jews” are simply Christians who practice some Jewish traditions.

Steve and Paula said...

Dear Anna,
I am a Believer in the Messiah who fullfilled the prophesies fortold, and I wear a headovering fulltime and also wear skirts/dresses fulltime.
I attend a large fairly mainstream church, where I am for lack of a better term, an outsider.
I am avoided by many, being perseived as quite possibly legalistic at the most, and just to different at the least.
I have no problem with them believing they do not need to follow everything asked of a Christian.
Everyones faith is at different levels.
Its getting past the outward, and learning what is inside, that is important, and so often avoided.
People automatically assume legalism. Its just in our nature.
Whether or not this is true of a person, can only be learned through fellowship.
Ephesians 2:8 -- For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: {9} Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Romans 9:31 -- But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. {32} Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

eli said...

Dear Amy,
I am writing, obviously in response to your post on “secular and religious Jews”.

To me the very words “secular Jews” is a clear oxymoron in its most basic sense, one which no reasonable mind would be able to resolve or decipher!

What further complicates the matter is your own comprehensive description of the clash bet. the secular and religious Jews as seen in the modern state of Israel!

Let’s get to the “religious Jews” first.
According to your explanation, the religious Jew is the one who lives his life in accordance with the orders of the Lord. He/She has great faith in the creator of the cosmos and plans his thoughts, actions and every minute detail of daily life according to the command of the one and only creator, whom he considers has ordered every Jew to follow, for both his worldly and afterworld welfare.

Kosher food, limitations regarding male/female relations (for the obvious aim of family moral health which leads to a morally healthy society), tzedekah (for the benefit of the poor and needy), three times a day prayer (to help each person remember the dear Lord, not only in the synagogue ceremonies, but as an inseparable and vital part of every day-in a side note I have questions in regard to “the male Jew” having to perform this daily prayer and not the female.

The list would continue for 100 pages if I were to give examples!

Now we have to look at the “secular Jew”.
First lets look at the word “secular”. It is derived from “secularism” which is a doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations, at best a doctrine emphasizing a person’s capacity for self-realization through reason (but again rejects religion and the supernatural).

Now according to what you have yourself emphasized, the secular Jew is miles away from Judaism and a Jewish lifestyle and as you assert, secular Jews ridicule religious Jews, calling them useless, backward, and queer. People who according to your post are so alien to the spirit of Judaism and the Jewish lifestyle that in your own words some none-Jews know more about Judaism than they do!!!!

A secular Jew seems to me to be more like an idolater of the time of Moses who ridiculed and persecuted the pious Jews because of their faith in God and their religious lifestyle. The only difference is that the modern secular Jew has the privilege of being born of a Jewish mother (whether this should in fact be considered a privilege and not the true extent of ones piety in life regardless of blood-linkage to ancestors is yet another point of confusion)

Now I have to come to my main concern and question and that is “who is a Jew”? The religious Jew, the secular Jew, or both of them?!! If the answer is both then the confusion mounts!!!

And yet another question: “Is Judaism a religion which has to be ACCEPTED and PRACTICED by its adherents or is it merely a nationality (like Japanese, Chinese, French, Portuguese…..) in which case, one can belong to a certain nation, but not have to adhere to a certain ideology of the people of that nation?

By your definition and examples it seems to be more like a nationality rather than a religion and thus much more confusing when Jews say “God has chosen the Jews over the rest of the world”…. Here the question would be “which Jews are chosen and preferred by God?” The religious or the secular? If the answer is “the religious” then what happens to your belief in God’s promise to the entire Jewish population whom according to Jewish standards include both the religious and the secular? If the answer is, a Jew is a Jew and God chose Jews over the rest, then it seems to go in contradiction with God’s Justice, i.e. to reward the Good believer and follower of Judaism (religious Jew) and punish the one gone astray (the secular Jew who apart from being “named” Jewish through his mother has nothing else in common with Judaism and as you’ve mentioned yourself even adheres to strange eastern religious cults!!!!!)

Reason tells me if Judaism is a religion whose author is the Almighty Lord (of which I am certain) who expects his followers to be his good servants in terms of both faith and action-meaning that they accept it with their heart and practice it with their mind and physical body- and thus calls such a person a “Jew”, then this same term can in NO ways be also attributed to those who perform nothing of the previously mentioned acts and ho even ridicule the pious for those actions of obedience.

Another Question would be: What does God have in waiting for the secular Jew?

To my “reason”, a Jew can only be a “religious Jew”; “secular Jew” makes absolutely NO sense, unless of course we look at Judaism as a “race” or a “nationality” and not a religion with divine origin, in which case it would lead to even more chaos and confusion in one’s understanding of Judaism.

I truly hope you allow this post to be published and not ask me to send it to your email. I believe that your own post was controversial enough and my response is only in accordance with what you brought up.

May the great Author of all religions guide us all.


Bhanu Prasad said...

Anna T,

Secularists are either

i)Strong idealists
ii)Brainless hedonists

i) may agree with religion,or may turn to religion once the body begins to decay.

but ii) are pure drag on the society.

i) walk along their own moralistic path. ii) are too incapable to have any personal ethic and are slaves to the animalistic instincts of their bodies

And yes, most of modern liberals, libertarians are ii.

Deanna said...


Thank you for responding to the email I sent earlier. Appreciate your reply.

Still would enjoy reading what you can tell me from your point of view what you have to say about the ORACLES of G-D. Believe this would be a fascinating book to read.

Not all humans have the oracles in their DNA. Do you suppose that because the Jewish people are
G-D's chosen people with this DNA in their bloodline that this is why so many have desired to destroy the Jewish people?

True without respecting the Lord's counsel and living life by HIS word, we are all living corrupt and misguided lifestyles and not being who we should be in the Lord.

When I have a little bit more time, I will try to read what you wrote earlier about Marx.

I have recently started a blog at this thing. For an old lady, I am working at getting more involved at this cyberspace stuff.

Thank you again for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The hateful reactions to the breastfeeding argument were shocking. How sad that some would make those types of comments. This was an extremely interested post- thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
I am new reader of your blog and haven't even begun to read all the past posts, so you may have already addressed this, but I was wondering....

reading your post today made me think about here in America, and I suppose other parts of the world, there is a "movement" of sorts going on. This movement is for christian's to "get back to the Hebraic roots" of christianity. It seems that now the gentile christian's are wanting to claim their place as a grafted in Jew and to begin to observe Sat. sabbath and keep the feasts. I am one of those chritians that is interested in learning more about the Hebrew's and their customs and tradtions, but I think some of the Messianic Movement are going a little over board.
What do you think about Jews that want to be Gentiles (for all intents and purposes ignoring their Hebraic roots) and Gentiles wanting to be Jews?

Mrs. Anna T said...


To be brief: Jews cannot become non-Jews, and non-Jews can only become Jewish by a proper conversion.

From our point of view, Gentiles only have to observe the Seven laws of Noah to gain a place in the World to Come. If they wish, they can - but certainly don't have to - follow more Jewish traditions.

cmoursler said...

Dear Anna,
I have been a Christian nominally for 22 years and a "real" Christian for 5. I think G-d can awaken the hardest of hearts. If you watch closely, it's always the people who are the most bitter and angry that believe in G-d but are too angry to admit it. It's the people who go around persecuting religious people who are the most frightened of his existence. just keep doing what you are doing. You will bring people closer to G-d.
(the title of my blog is from the chosen by chaim potok,by the of my favorite books. I think the gaining of compassion by hearing what is unsaid in the silence is a beautiful notion.)

Kaitlin.Elizabeth said...

I have heard criticism surrounding breastfeeding. It's ridiculous. Have you ever heard of "Child Free" people? Basically, it's folks who choose not to have children at all. Personally, I don't care if they want children or not, but they talk about children as if they're a plague to the world. They'd rather the world be rid of all children then be "exposed" to them. You should hear what they have to say about breastfeeding. They talk about it as if it's unnatural... just plain silly.

As a christian, I know exactly what you mean about people looking down their noses at me because of my faith. They act as if their atheism makes them superior me or something. Even without my faith involved, people get very upset when I express my desire to be a homemaker one day (I'm 21, currently unmarried). They say things like "But you're so smart! Why waste your life away?".

Also, I just want to say, I've been reading your blog for a while now :) I greatly admire you and I love reading!

Analytical Adam said...

I have to disagree with you Mrs. Anna here. Overall, I have been treated better by SECULAR Jews then Orthodox in the United States. I do feel the Orthodox world is extremely dogmatic and closes their eyes to anything that happens that would go against what is a Rabinic view on a certain issue and will be mean and cruel to the person that has an experience that goes against a Rabbinic view on an issue. I have had awful experiences with Male Rabbi's and it isn't limited to one branch of Orthodoxy. Just one example women can't testify (which to be honest I see no biblical proof for this) so to make up for this Orthodox Rabbi's belive anything a woman says without trying to back it up and believe woman NEVER lie or exaggerate which of course is not true and this has hurt families. I think this is brainless and dogmatic to be quite honest.

Furthermore, in Israel from what I understand 60% do keep Passover. I suspect most Jews are seciular because they don't feel Orthodoxy cares about their experiences and are too quick to bash other Jews rather then try to help them which also requires leaders and Rabbi's to listen to THEIR concerns as well which most leaders are too close minded to listen. Most NONORTHODOX Jews were Orthodox at some point and they likely became this way because of bad experiences.

Too much of Orthodoxy is quick to attack secular Jews because that way they don't have to focus on their own problems which if there weren't problems in Orthodoxy I suspect Orthodoxy would do more to bring others back. But since Orthodoxy has many serious problems to get people's attention away from it they focus on attacking less relgious Jews which the affect is it pulls them further away and I can understand why they have some distrust.

At this point in time I do have distrust of Jews that dress Very Orthodox initially due to the experiences I have had as most of them I don't think care about Jewish rank and file men and use them as scapegoats.

Anonymous said...

The seven laws of Moses? I have never heard of that, would you mind giving knowledge on that, please?

Mrs. Anna T said...

"Most NONORTHODOX Jews were Orthodox at some point and they likely became this way because of bad experiences."

Adam, I cannot quite agree. I, for example, was non-Orthodox because I wasn't given a chance to know the beauty of my heritage until I became an adult. There's a whole generation of young Jews who are deprived of their heritage altogether.


I meant the Seven Laws of Noah, which are directed at the entire human kind; not the Law of Moses, which was given specifically to Jews. I might do a separate post about it, but you can find a good bit of info if you just Google "Seven Laws of Noah" or "Noahide Laws".

... I was forced to delete a few comments - not because they were rude or inflammatory, but because I felt they could easily lead to a slippery slope of religious debate which I'm *not* prepared to host on my blog. I cannot respond to comments which would practically trick me into saying something negative about other religions in order to defend my own faith. Sorry.

Bethany Hudson said...

Anonymous -

I would have to disagree with your statement that "there is really no such thing as a secular, or ethnic, Christian." This is simply untrue. It is true that Christianity is largely viewed as a religion of belief and not of ethnicity, but there are countless people who only set foot in a church twice a year who consider themselves Christians because their families and heritage are Christian. For 1500 years, the Christian church controlled not only the religious life but also the secular life of many, many countries, and in those countries, a secular Christian presence is VERY strong to this day. This may not be as prevelant in America, but it does not mean that it does not exist elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

Oh, dear Anna, please know that I was not trying to “trick” you with my question or be rude…I was merely curious. However, I respect your right to maintain peace on this blog, and though I had not really anticipated trouble or drama from my question, it is your blog. :)

I would have to disagree with your statement that "there is really no such thing as a secular, or ethnic, Christian." This is simply untrue. It is true that Christianity is largely viewed as a religion of belief and not of ethnicity, but there are countless people who only set foot in a church twice a year who consider themselves Christians because their families and heritage are Christian.

Bethany, my point was not to deny that there are people who consider themselves Christians but aren’t religious. These people definitely exist. However, I’d argue these people are not actually Christians, whereas you can definitely be an actual Jew without being religious. Seriously. If your mother’s a Jew, you ARE a Jew, according to the definitions of Judaism. While certain people might identify as Christians even if they don’t actually follow Christ, Christianity and the Bible would not define them as Christians. If you aren’t in a relationship with Jesus or following Him, no matter what’s going on culturally, you aren’t a Christian according to Christianity…but Judaism defines itself in terms of ethnicity and/or religious practice. It doesn’t have to be both. I hope that clarifies my previous post a little bit.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Don't worry - I know you weren't trying to start an inflammatory discussion; I just have a bit of experience with what might trigger it, and trust me, I don't want to go there...

If you have a question that goes beyond what I'm ready to discuss on this blog, you can always email me!

Laura said...

Anonymous, I want to agree with Bethany that secular Christians are really Christian. Many of them believe key elements of Christianity but just don't practice the customs of Christianity. I have spent lots of time trying to pin down exactly what makes a Christian, and I think that there is an essential core of belief that makes a Christian Christian, but that does not require specific actions.

That said, a 'secular' Christian will never be christian to the point that a Jew can be even an atheist.

It is also my impression that whatever the tension in America between secular and religious people, in Israel, which was founded on a culture kept alive and individual primarily by religion, the conflict will be much more intense. In America, most secular people do not even take the time to have a strong opinion on the conservatively religious. I doubt this is true in Israel.

Anonymous said...

Laura – If a person embraces Christian belief (albeit not wholeheartedly), wouldn’t that person then be religious rather than secular, by definition? I think we are disagreeing on the definition of secular, which I take to mean not religious at all, holding no religious beliefs…and I’m not sure how you’re defining it? Maybe you take secular to mean not 100% sold out to one’s religion?

I think we agree on the core point I was trying to make. One can be an atheist (religious) and a Jew (secular/cultural/ethnic) at the same time, while one cannot be an atheist (religious) and a Christian (also religious) at the same time. Christianity is a religion, while Jewishness is an ethnicity, a culture, and a religion. :)

Mary Catherine said...

It's similar being a Catholic in the US (and in fact, I feel more in common with you than I do with many Catholic women here). Just TRY wearing a VEIL to a Novus Ordo Mass sometime! Good grief. You'd think that we had been strictly forbidden to ever cover our heads, instead of, you know, the Vatican never actually saying that we DIDN'T HAVE TO. Or having a conversation with another Catholic (who should be on the same page with you with regards to following the explicit teaching of the Magisterium, since it just so happens to be the main governing body which when you're following it you're living your Catholic faith and when you're not you're just not) about birth control? Or not eating meat on Friday? Or even modesty?

And of course, we also have the people who think they're holier than everybody else because their skirts always come down to their ankles and they have more kids than they can possibly feed and they don't ever let them go outside lest the evil culture corrupt them and they are quick to lecture everybody else about how they're living their life wrong. We call them "holier than the Pope," i.e. that they think they are, and it's not a good thing. It's a balance, living in the world.

princessozma said...

I am amazed at how many Christians posted on this particular subject. It must hit close to home. Plus, as a Catholic, I frequently find that I have more in common with strictly religious women of Jewish and LDS beliefs than most Christians I know. More in common culturally, not belief wise, naturally!

Anyway, I disagree about the post that there are no "ethnic Christian." Ok, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt about Christians. But when it comes to Catholics, the minute you are born Italian or Irish or Polish or whatever Catholic, you are an ethnic Catholic. And once you get baptized, watch out... you ALWAYS will be Catholic, even if you become an atheist.

As an Italian/Slovak Catholic, I know a bit about the separation of secular Catholicism and ethnic Catholicism and religious Catholicism and everything in between. I also know about the ridiculous anti-Catholic sentiment that has existed in the States since at least my grandmother's time when she moved from Italy. She even had a KKK cross burned on her yard because she wasn't "white."

I also sympathize with the statement that the religious are "mindless sheep." I heard that from my BROTHER IN LAW who was an altar boy and then got all wacky, smoked a bunch of weed and became a Buddhist... oh well. Endless insults came later when the rest of my husband's family "left" the Church. It's bad enough when the society around you doesn't understand why you would choose to be a believer rather than a secular religious person. But when it's family... ugh.

Anyway, I'm sorry that things are so confusing and unbalanced in Israel for strict observers of Judaism. It's not fair and it's not nice and people just don't have manners anymore or they would actually be interested in your life and not just assume things... (ok, run on sentence!)

I say, stick it to them! Ok, that is my Italian side coming out, but oh well. As my mother would say, they're just jealous honey... I agree! They're jealous that they don't have something to grasp hold of in a world that is so confusing. They're jealous that they don't have interesting, life-affirming traditions that continue from generation to generation. They're jealous that they're not cool enough to have a uniform (whether it's a head covering or a plaid skirt!). Alright, maybe they're not really jealous, but just keep your head up high and remember that.

Keep posting!

Lori said...

Got a hearty "ha, ha!" from some comments today!
1) I am both anti-circumcision and VERY pro-life (there is NO good reason for a non-Jew to circmcize a healthy baby.) Tsk! Poor little circumcized gentile boys...

2) I have very strong libertarian leanings, yet am very religious (and yes, observant), not secular. Or maybe Bhanu Prasad has a different definition of "libertianian" than used around here...

Just doin' my best to make peoples' heads spin, I guess...

Analytical Adam said...

Dear Mrs. Anna:

I really feel the Jewish people have survived because of G-d and not really because of the "Orthodox". Furthermore, it seems many of the relgious do support feminims which many of the comments seem to suggest as many religious jews and christians seem to support many of it's idea's. I know you have been drawn but in other cases the community is hostile. If you had a poor relatiosnhip with your mother but a good one with your father you would find people would not embrace you in the observant world. In your situation you were helped but many have not been and overall I have had very bad experiences with Rabbi's and in my own life I have been much more helped by secular Jews then religious Jews even though I am fairly observant and I can't ignore this although in a few situations the Orthodox has helped me. In fact my own family problems which are serious all my family is "Orthodox".

And the fact that has done it is feminism in Orthodoxy which seems to exist in all parts of Orthodoxy and I do feel in many Orthodox families the father is NOT something that secular Jews think they would want to be.