Trying to understand Jews who only see themselves as merely ethnically Jewish

Jews by religion as we have seen share a sense of sacred ethnicity, Jews of no religion have a sense of “ordinary” or “descriptive” ethnicity. Jews of no religion are indeed proud of their Jewishness (83%), however only 12% said that it was “very important” to them. Most of these Jews of no religion, as we have seen, do not wish to pass on their Jewishness to their children, nor do they have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. In other words, Jewish ethnicity for these people is a fact about themselves. It is a fact that most are not ashamed of and are even proud of. However, it is not very important to them – for the most part, it does not incur any special sense of belonging or obligation. And if their children will not feel or be Jewish, that’s fine too. Thus, the ethnicity of Jews of no religion is very similar to the ethnicity of other white ethnics described by Richard Alba as being in a “twilight.” For the most part white ethnics are totally assimilated into the American heartland with very high rates of intermarriage. For some their ethnic or increasingly multi-ethnic background can be occasionally highlighted “symbolically” or “optionally” in those situations in which it can provide “spice,” status or interest. It certainly does not contain any sacred or normative dimension, and it is sparsely passed on to their children.

Shlomo Fischer, “Who are the “Jews by Religion” in the Pew Report?“, Times of Israel (18 November 2013).

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