The study of Jewish secularism is a growing field. Following the recent collapse of the predominant master narrative of secularism as a homogeneous process rooted in Christianity, scholars have turned to explore the unique characteristics of Jewish secularism which distinguish it from other types of secularisms. Moreover, even within Jewish culture itself, different historical and intellectual settings have created varied manifestations of secularism. Fin de siècle Eastern Europe, for example, gave rise to a widespread Jewish secularity that differs significantly from the elitist character it acquired at the same time in North Africa and the Middle East. And both of them diverge radically from contemporary nation-based Israeli secularism.
The object of this study is to mine the rich and diverse legacy of Jewish Secularism in light of a threefold typology that encapsulates key patterns of secular worldviews and lifestyles underlying Jewish existence in modernity: (1) the Radical Model attempts to completely secularize Jewish culture by purposefully excluding religion and religiosity from that culture; (2) the Pluralistic Model aims to ensure open discourse between individuals and communities, each contributing to Jewish culture according to their respective religious or secular dispositions; and (3) the Semi-Religious Model aims to offer a secular substitute for religion without excluding the religious impulse (as the radical model does), but by diverting it from religious objects to secular ones such as peoplehood or state.
This pioneering typology will contribute to a new understanding of current Jewish secularity, as well as assist in the re-shaping of its future trajectory in light of the recent reassertion of power by religious forces in the spheres of politics and culture worldwide.
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