Jews Without Judaism

Certainly no confusion of the ethnic with the religious presents more anomalies than the mixture of ethnic Jewishness and religious Judaism that American Jews have concocted for themselves. But the brew is fresh, not vintaged. For nearly the entire history of the Jews, to be a Jew meant to practice the religion set forth in the Torah revealed by God to Moses at Sinai, which the world knows as Judaism. A Jew who gave up Judaism adopted some other religion and ceased to identify himself with the Jews as a group. So the religion, Judaism, defined the group at both the entry and the exit points.

For the entire history of Judaism and for most of the history of the Jews, the definition of the Jewish group invoked purely theological categories. In that religion the Jews are called "Israel," meaning the Israel of which Scriptures speak, the holy social entity ("people," "nation") that God called into being through the saints, beginning with Abraham and Sarah. Belonging to Israel imposes divine requirements: a belief in the one God who created Heaven and Earth and made himself known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then to Moses at Sinai and to prophets thereafter; and commandments that define the holy way of life that marks Israel as God's people. So "Israel" in Judaism corresponds to the socioreligious entity Christianity calls the "Church" or the "mystical body of Christ."


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