The New Discovery of the Secular Believer

It's not an oxymoron: Secular Jewish Israelis value a variety of Jewish religious practices.

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Nevertheless, when they were explicitly asked if they would like to see a non-Jewish bride or groom at a Jewish wedding, 80 percent answered no. Most respondents, 78 percent, would like to see some sort of rabbi at a Jewish wedding, although only 28 percent would want an Orthodox one, and 70 percent would not want any [Orthodox rabbi]. Over 60 percent would be willing to have a woman rabbi.

A large majority of the students, 90.5 percent, feel that the Orthodox movements in Israel do not deserve any more privileges than other streams of Judaism, and 56.5 percent replied yes to the question, "Would you be willing to pray in a Reform or Conservative synagogue in Israel?"

When asked "Do we need the ultra-Orthodox because they keep the embers burning?" about 75 percent said no. Approximately 63 percent feel that in order to be a Jew, a person has to undergo a process of conversion, and 52 percent feel that the Reform conversion is equivalent to Orthodox conversion, and a strong majority--94 percent--said that they found the term "secular conversion" acceptable.

As for Yom Kippur, about 54 percent said that a Jew should give an accounting of his deeds before God, as opposed to 39 percent who said that a Jew does not have to do so. Does a Jew have to fast on Yom Kippur? Some 56 percent said yes, 36 percent no, and eight percent did not know. Only about seven percent felt that on Yom Kippur people should take a trip abroad, while 72 percent were not in favor. About 80 percent want the ban on driving kept on Yom Kippur, with only 19 percent in favor of driving. Here it is possible to discern an inconsistency, which stems from an open-minded attitude--disagreement on the question of whether to pray and fast, along with broad agreement on preserving the special nature of the holiday. Not included in the questionnaire was the question of whether the Israeli Jew should even observe Yom Kippur.

Regarding the Passover seder, a large majority of respondents, 80 percent, said they would like to see the Haggadah read at the seder by all of those present, while only three percent would like to see it read only by men. The majority wishes to see the observance of other customs, such as drinking four cups of wine, hiding the afikoman [matzah eaten for dessert], singing Ma Nishtana [the Four Questions] and eating matzah [unleavened bread]. Only 16 percent would like to see bread at the Passover seder, as opposed to 83 percent that would not.

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Daliah Shehori is a journalist in Israel.