Jewry between Tradition and Secularism

Europe and Israel Compared


Are Jews today still the carriers of a single and identical collective identity and do they still constitute a single people? This two-fold question arises when one compares a Hassidi Habad from Brooklyn, a Jewish professor at a secular university in Brussels, a traditional Yemeni Jew still living in Sana’a, a Galilee kibbutznik, or a Russian Jew in Novossibirsk. Is there still today a significant relationship between these individuals who all subscribe to Judaism? The analysis shows that the Jewish identity is multiple and can be explained by considering all variants as “surface structures” of the three universal “deep structures” central to the notion of collective identity, namely, collective commitment, perceptions of the collective’s singularity, and positioning vis-à-vis “others.”


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Biographical Note

Eliezer Ben-Rafael is Professor of Sociology at Tel-Aviv University. He holds the Chair of Political Sociology and is the co-director of the Klal Yisrael Project. He was also the President of the International Institute of Sociology. He has published in the areas of ethnicity, the sociology of language, globalization and modernization, and the transformation of the Kibbutz. Thomas Gergely is Professor of Communication at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He was the head of the department and is now the Director of the Institut Martin Buber in Jewish Studies. He has published in the areas of didactic linguistics and the Jewish culture of memory. Yosef Gorny is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History. He was the head of the Jewish History Department and is now the co-director of the Klal Yisrael Project. He is also the Director of the Institute of Jewish Press and Communication, Tel-Aviv University. He has published books and articles examining the contemporary history of Israel, American Jewry, and the Bund movement.


All those interested in history and sociology of contemporary Jewry, ethnicity and religion in modern society, antisemitism and the memory of the Holocaust; Israel and Jewish diaspora relationships; dimensions of collective identity.