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Culturally Jewish but Agnostic?

Who here considers themselves still tied to their culture as a Jew — perhaps even pro Israel or even Zionist — but is also agnostic?

I put myself in that camp. How do you reconcile it? I see that there is a distinct separation from the religious aspects of Jewish life from the cultural.

And happy Passover. I’m going out for sushi. This will be my Seder plate.

jperlow 7 Mar 30

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I'm very curious to hear your opinions on the recent Gaza killings?


Palestinians engulf a multitude of different cultures including Jews. I wrote a reply article for a newspaper about how confusing it is in Israel and the surrouding areas. Most of the fighting is over the small area of land (Gaza) on the ocean because of trade/import/exports. So who are Palestinians? They "are an ethnonational group[30][31][32][33][34][35][36] comprising the modern descendants of the peoples who have lived in Palestine over the centuries, including Jews and Samaritans, and who today are largely culturally and linguistically Arab." [] What Israel means to so many other religious groups is amazing. That's where Jesus supposedly lived, was born and died. So it's a highly prized piece of land-most sought after- but the Jews need a country and so it goes.


Being Jewish is an ethnic nationality .....not necessarily a religion.

I don't agree. It was always a religion. That religion got more and more diluted and reformed over the years, and those who wanted to keep up the traditions in spite of believing in none of it, did so. And those who believed it was an ethnic thing were always free to hate Jews no matter what their actual religion was. There are Jews from a great variety of cultures and countries. I don't believe it's carried in the blood any more than any other religion that has been around for a couple or more thousand years.There are black African Jews etc. I think it's always the right thing to do to allow individuals to claim their own identity, not get bogged down like Hitler did in saying someone with an eighth part of Jewish blood was doomed.

@nicknotes, I absolutely agree. For Jews throughout the diaspora, there is a connection that is cultural and not necessarily religious. The ashkenazi jews were at one point reduced in number to a few hundred so all of us that have Ashkenzi ancestory are essentially pretty much one family. And, amongst us all, we diverge religiously. Thanks for pointing this out.

@Sooz There are many Jews who don't follow any of the religious laws but observe the holidays for their historical significance to the Jewish people. Are you Jewish? Did you defile the Sabbath today by turning on your computer? [Lighting a fire on Shabbos] Of course you are entitled to your opinion


I no longer feel bound by my Jewish heritage. I like to ally myself with members of my tribe, i.e., those who share my atheism, progressive values, and rationalism. As a non-Zionist, I cannot feel close to Israel as a Jewish nation. They can't be both Jewish and democratic. It's impossible. And a theocracy? Those are anathema to me. The rituals will always feel familiar, but I no longer follow them. The food? A lot of it is of Eastern European origin, and unhealthful.

Sooz Level 6 Mar 30, 2018

Couldn't agree more. Miko Peled, in his personal journey titled 'The General's Son' described how what is called 'Jewish style' food that he discovered in the USA wasn't what he'd grown up with in Jerusalem.

For almost fifty years, before self-education, I blindly supported what the Israeli government had been doing; buying 'the program' all the way. Like Miko, also hadn't met any Palestinians directly until later in life. They actually don't have horns either; nor did they resemble 'snakes'...

@Silver1wun @Sooz that's what this website is for. To bring together like minded people and my goodness, you have found one another. 🙂
Sooz: Why can't Israel be both Jewish and a democracy? How are these mutually exclusive?
As for you, Silver: what the Israeli government is doing? What exactly? They are a democracy like we have here. They're not perfect and Netanyahu has got to go, but they're not a dictatorship either.

Israel doesn't have to be demonized in order to create a better situation for the Palestinians. My wish is that you stop believing all the propoganda.

@crazycurlz O.K. curly, only because you seem adorable, I'll try to explain and answer your questions. I must, however, try to correct your apparent misimpression that my positions are founded on 'propaganda'.

They don't originate from ANY media/'news' sources. They are the result of serious research and study and if you like, I can cite many books penned primarily by Jews and Israeli Jews as most of the foundation for my positions.

You ask what the israeli government is doing; stating that they are a Democracy 'like we have'. It sounds romantic and I also once held that opinion; talkiing about propaganda... To see more clearly what the leadership of the Zionist state is doing that violates the most basic of human rights and deprives people of needs and dignity, one must look into history. There is no substitute.

This comment section isn't an optimal format for elaborating on that history. I hope it will suffce, in our context, to state that confiscation and/or destruction of homes, siezing of lands and resettlement of people to ghetto-like conditions cannot be mandated by Biblically based notions in the real, palpable world.

Israel is certainly NOT a democracy as it is generally defined. We, incidentally are not a Democracy here in the USA and our founders went to extraordinary, ingenious precautions to prevent us from becoming a Democracy.

From the beginning, demographics in the occupied Levant were manipulated to assure an overwhelmingly large Jewish majority. That is clearly documented six ways from next Tuesday in personal diaries, communiques and public statements of Israel's founders. Non jewish members of Knessett and non-Jewish citizens of Israel enjoy their status as something tenuous and revokable. Those with Jewish identity are in no such jeopardy.

Israel I agree, is not a dictatorship in the strict definition. It is, however, in the hands of ministers in line behind Netanyahu, who are rabbidly racist and make no secret about their attitudes about Arabs and dehumanize and vilify Arabs at every opportunity. If Netanyahu goes, it will get even worse.

I like your wilingness to inquire about things that appear, on the surface, to be the antithesis of what you hold to be true. Most of the time such perceptions result in ad hominem attacks and condemnation of one allegedly being a hater or self-hating Jew. Love motivates my speaking out. I don't hate Jews in Israel or in my family. Also don't hate ANY types or races of people on those bases alone. I don't reject or hate those elements of Jewish cuture here in my homeland, even though I reject gods etc. Learning doesn't happen nearly as much among those who agree as those who differ.

We disagree a little in your statement that this site is about bringing together like-minded people. It can sometimes be that. But I see a more valuable potential being realized here in bringing together people whether like or differiing in 'mind' by means of respectful, well meant examination of our respective ideas and positions. It serves well the old saying that: "The trick is to hold and opinion without allowiing an opinion to hold you."

lol @Silver1wun I don't follow your posts for nothing! You are thoughtful in your wordiness. My comment about bringing together like-minded people was a below the belt snide comment that I am not proud of after the fact but felt very good at the moment. I don't typically stoop to bad behavior (I think). Yes to putting 'democracy' in quotes for both Israel and the US. Yes to allowing for abuses and terrible biases and prejudices within Netanyahu's admin and beyond, the radicalized Israelis are as inhumane as any other group. YES in a reasonable world building should have stopped in the West Bank and both the Israelis would have benefited politically with this strategic move. What a stupid miscalculation. Regarding Arab citizenship and status to be revokable and tenuous, I will look further. Yes, absolutely, I read Israelis exposing and reacting, in very honest ways, to the direction Israel is taking, actions of the government. But, unlike Egypt, Syria, Russia, N Korea, those Israelis are not thrown in prison for speaking out. As a matter of fact, movements form from their thoughts. Netanyahu's popularity and UN-popularity is about the same as Trumps. It's very important to me to separate the Israeli government from the Israelis. I think we can use our own model to somewhat understand why Netanyahu remains in power, why politics don't change quickly.
YES there's room for improvement in Israel but there was no where else for the Jews to go following WWII, world opinion favored a Jewish state, Palestine didn't exist, Palestinians were offered a country alongside Israel and instead the Arab countries chose war. The Arab world has scapegoated the Palestinians in much the same way the Jews have been scapegoated historically. At any point, the Palestinian leadership could have made concessions, too, but instead have been steadfastly committed to denying Israel's existence. There are real atrocities under the dictatorships of the Arab world. The Arabs use this conflict to distract from the things they do to their own people. I think the Arab world doesn't want an end to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. It's their potent tool to focus hatred on 'other', coalesce power through hate.
also, one of my heroes Mosab Hassan Yousef. I overuse him. 🙂[]
There's so much to discuss regarding this conflict, the inception of Israel as a country, THE TOOL OF SCAPEGOATING MINORITIES in order to gain power. I'm glad you can declare that your motivation is to expose the abuses of the Israeli government and that you are not full of hate for Jews/Israelis. Those are important declarations to me. Often antiJewish, antiIsrael, antizionist comments thinly veil hate. If we are to grow as humans, we need to get a better understanding of scapegoating and shine the light on the big players.
Also what we haven't discussed is how Israel, as the only 'democracy' in the middle east is used/ their decision making is influenced by US politics and power. So much to uncover. Thanks so much for opening up discussion. How nice.

@crazycurlz Mosab Hassan Yousef is very much a hero in the sense that his motivation was based on love, not hatred and to prevent bloodshed on both sides however possible. The video posted wouldn't play - some kind of glitch I suppose.

There is a propensity on the part of Israeli government apologists that unfortunately, still works on those with too little knowledge about millions of Muslim and Christian refugees displaced from their homelands. It is that of intentionally confusing and combining them with militant, murderous Islamist fanatics. Many, as in the case of Mosab Yousef, do not subscribe to or advocate the violent acts of these exploiters. They also clearly distinguish between Jews and Zionists. All Zionists are not Jews and all Jews are not Zionists. "Ilan Pappe, describes it well: 'Most Zionists don't believe that God exists, but they do believe he promised them Palestine." Efforts on the parts of these Palestinians and their supporters are non-violent and do not advocate it.

Also among the Palestinians are, of course others, not themselves members of fanatic militant groups, but so embittered by loss of their entire world that Islamist murderers are seen as the only way to retaliate against occupiers who detain and torture relatives, periodically deprive them of adequate basic human needs like water and power, etc., fire upon them with snipers when they dare to venture forth unarmed in angry protests demanding, albeit helplessly, return. They are, out of rage, subjecting other Palestinians to a form of double exploitation; abused by Zionists and used by Jew hating, militants who couldn't care less about such things as return. This is how Hamas got 'chosen' as leadership in Gaza. The more bitter the Israeli leadership makes their existence, the more of them, especially the young, get recruited.

There is no way to begin to understand this terribly snarled situation without knowing the history. 'Horse's mouth' history, not Uris style false narratives is what I'm talking about. A superb place begin would be closer to the beginning itself, before nascent events of the 1940's. J.M.N. Jeffires 'Palestine the Reality' was written at a time that also predated the holocaust, in 1939. He clears up a lot of misunderstanding of even the ancient history of Jews in the Levant/Syria upon which Zionists found claims to their 'right of return'.

We've probably well exceeded the interests in this topic already; this being a social and dating site. At least I have and further discussions might be better pursued via the message feature or even email. It is a delight, however to have serious, stimulating discussions on this and many other topics. For that I really appreciate this cyber place.

@Silver1wun I very much appreciate your grasp of the complex history and issues that have made the Middle East such a mess. Having gotten my B.A. (years ago) at UCLA in Middle Eastern Studies, I know too well that most uninvolved people do not know the whole story at all. I also spent half a year in Israel in my teens (my parents took me). BUT I haven't the time or energy to rehash everything. You've done a good job beginning that. Sure, Jews needed somewhere to go when even the U.S. wasn't offering a home to desperate refugees. But that doesn't mean that those inhabitants of what is now Israel whose homes were taken should have to pay that price. Just as those Europeans who took Jewish homes when their Jews were rounded up to be gassed should NOT have been allowed to keep those homes when the war was over and some Jews found their way back. It's a tragedy all around, and one that ought not to be repeated. You can't have an official state religion and be a full democracy, especially when one portion of the population has more babies and will eventually be the majority. You have to write a really good constitution that allows for all individuals of any religion to have a vote. I like what we have been trying to do in this country. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion or no religion. Israel should not keep building settlements where the UN and the rest of the world say they're illegal, etc. I hate, really and truly hate, that I, as a born Jew, can get citizenship in Israel, when so many very needy refugees cannot get in and stay, if they're the wrong religion (and especially the wrong color). End of tirade.

@Sooz We substantially agree on both your points and ending our tirades. 🙂 The message feature and/or email probably better suit such in depth comparisons. Of course ultimately meeting personally also discussing a host of other stimulating subjects might be an ultimate option as well.

@Silver1wun My original reply to you was deleted by Admin because it included my web site so we could continue this elsewhere. They won't let us out to roam free! Wah! Anyway, I said that at some point we could possibly continue this conversation one way or another.

@Sooz Well Sooz, I might have a solution if it makes it under the radar. Subtract '1' ad at thing mail dot com and it goes to me.

@Silver1wun I agree it's time to close the discussion. Discussion is always interesting when valid arguments are brought to the table and you and I have allowed for this. Thank you. Where we part ways, must agree to disagree: I take issue with your view that Palestinians are nonviolent, especially in relationships with other Arab countries. I think you are hoodwinked in that assumption and that until both sides own their own behaviors and other countries are held accountable for using the conflict as a means to their own ends, it will continue to fall unfairly on the backs of the Israelis. Palestinians, like Israelis, like Americans have a whole spectrum of attitude and approach to this conflict. @Sooz, hahaha, you are so clearly a member of the left-wing, narrow-minded, masquerading your prejudices behind your education. I find your comments abhorent. Those who don't agree with you, you label 'uninvolved person'. Members of my family were in Israel at its inception. Other members were killed in the holocaust. Your remarks are flippant concerning the history around Israel's existence. Ideas like these, IMO, are part of the problem

@crazycurlz Oh my, the discussion does end here Curlz with one suggestion. The aforementioned book, 'The General's Son' Miko Peled, the author's grandfather signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence. His father Matti Peled served as an IDF officer in the War of Independence; ultimately becoming a general, supporting the 'preemptive' attacks culminating in the Six Day War. Miko, born in Jerusalem was an IDF 'Red Beret' with a Zionist 'pedigree' as good as anyone's. His niece was murdered in a suicide bombing as a young teen in the 90's. Education, self in particular, makes this knowledge available in an aire of misinformation shrouding this problem.

If you dare, order the book, check him and others with comparable stories it might help to further enlighten that sympathy for the plight of people doesn't automatically equal hatred of others. I'm not a Leftist nor one who identifies with them. If a preference was forced, I'd be better fitted for the Right. This issue isn't a Left vs. Right one as much as a human one.

@Silver1wun My last thoughts, after watching Amazon's Human Flow: being in favor of a Jewish state does not mean one stands against the Palestinians. It means one understands the reasons that Israel came into existence and that there is work yet to do. Being anti-Zionist as Sooz is, definitely she represents the far-left, actually DOES indicate anti-Jewish sentiment. I will take a look at Matti Peled but I can tell you that any Israel, and there are many, who state a need for improving the conditions of the Palestinians, working toward a TWO STATE agreement, those are people I can deal with.
I was impressed with Human Flow, the documentary, especially the interview of the young female Palestinians. Why is it that it's clear to these young girls name Egypt, Jordan, Israel as equally responsible for the situation they face? Extremists, far-leftists like Sooz put the conflict squarely on the backs of the Israelis? It's propoganda. There are a lot of Israelis and Palestinians who are not militant. People like Sooz slant this conflict, add to the mess. I hope you also will consider your contribution going forward Silver.
Will you be man enough to grant me the last word on the subject?


Happy Pesach! Oy gevalt, such a loaded relationship I have with my Jewish ancestry. 🙂 My Jewish great grandparents were killed in the shoah and I DO have a yen to address this. Complicated topic, but, I think I understand Zionism and believe there's a place in this world for Israel (with recognition that this doesn't dismiss the rights of the Palestinians). I also enjoy discussion and argument so you will read me railing against antisemitism when I run across it, interjecting posts with my views. But, that's the extent of my Jewishness. Day to day, I am an American who is a nonbeliever. Holidays go by and I watch them go. I am 1/2 Jewish, one of 5 kids and the most mainstream of them all...2 sisters married Jewish guys and raised their kids Jewish, my brother wanted to be a rabbi. The 5 of us were raised in a Jewish community, exposed to the full range of Judaism and whatever lessons my dad culled together about being Spartan (and German). But, my dad was a flaming Atheist and my mom a cultural Jew and a Zionist. So, to me, religion never really entered my world. I somehow was more in tune to the spiritual side of life, rather than the religious. My son, surprisingly, happily, is engaged to a 1/2 Jewish young lady, culturally Jewish, and I admit, there is a nice symmetry with their union.
Thank you so much for opening up this discussion. I hope you'll continue to post as you work to reconcile your conflicting [beliefs]...but, do they really need to conflict? My niece (not one of those raised Jewish), when asked about her beliefs by a friend's mother said 'oh, Jews don't believe in God!' She was young, but, I think this is somewhat common internal conflict for Jews. But, why? It's an ancient religion. Can't one continue to observe for the sake of ones ancestors, tradition, other reasons than belief in God? I don't have your connection to Judaism and hope you don't take my questions as dismissive of your struggles. I watched my mom agonize over marrying a non-Jew even after 5 kids! 🙂

But why should one feel so drawn to observing ancient rituals "for the sake of one's ancestors"? It takes guts to give up superstition. It's not like you're spitting at those who came before you and eventually led to YOU. They did the best they could, but we've come a long way beyond that level of irrationality. Enlightenment, anyone?

@Sooz hmmm...does Enlightenment mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater? I never participated in ancient rituals, myself. I grew up with anarchists and nonbelievers. But I have friends and family, Jewish, Catholic, Christian, who value traditions. I have no doubt there are other religious traditions amongst us at this website who likewise value their cultural and religious traditions. I don't judge others for keeping traditions alive. I know when I went through trauma myself, I reached back, way back to both Greek and Jewish ancestors, people I can't even name, for solace and I found a sense of connection. I guess you'd call that superstition. But, to me, it's mysticism I can't explain but, it's there. That's what makes me agnostic and not an atheist. If you don't have that sense of ancestral knowledge, Sooz, I won't judge you. Likewise, I don't feel I should have to defend it. In the world I hope to be part of, we are not judging one another.

@crazycurlz No need to defend whatever helps you through the hard times. I'm certainly trying not to judge, if someone isn't hurting someone else.


I am hosting the Seder tonight. However, all participants are aware they will be in for a running commentary on history, evidence, and rational conclusions. You could say it's a Seder for the advancement of atheism and rational thought.

Yes, in a superficial way, I carry the baggage of history, but use it for constructive purposes.

By the way, @jperlow -- love the Seder plate.


cool love sushi. Calling myself cultural/belly jew for most of my life. Even an Israeli Bible Study Tour I was punished on at 16 couldn't influence me.


I believe in reincarnation it explains SO many things in life it's uncanny. That being said, I was raised by a pantheist and atheist supposedly Jewish. My grandparents put on all the holidays so I know for a FACT chicken soup cures colds and a lot of other stuff too.
I wear my grandfathers Star of David because thousands of Jews (&others) died for being Jewish- I'm honoring their memory and reminding myself at the same time how fast the current ideologies shift. How did an entire country suddenly condemn Jews on one man's ideology? How does something that screwed up happen? Well ask Trump about Mexicans or Muslims and thank dog his SIL Jared & Ivanka are Jewish or he'd be slinging crap on us as well.


I was engaged to a brilliant man, a Sabra, who told me the only way his parents would accept our marriage was for me to convert. Even though they were all atheists, it was important to preserve the heritage. I actually began that process (feeling like a terribly deceitful person, being an atheist & all...) I understood how they clung to something so ancient and so important to their identity. I also remember telling the rabbi that I WAS going to cheat and eat lobster!

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