What's a 'Jew of No Religion'? Professor Gross Comments

Monday, June 07, 2021

TIMES OF ISRAEL (JERUSALEM) -- Critics of the term say it draws a distinction where there should be none. “The fact that 24 percent of ‘Jews of no religion’ own a Hebrew-language prayer book should give us pause,” Rachel B. Gross, a professor of Jewish studies at San Francisco State University, wrote in an essay for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after the study was released.

Gross argues that the study’s categories reflected a division that makes sense to Christians, but not in Judaism, where practice has always shifted over time.

“American Jews continue to find meaning in emotional connections to their families, communities, and histories, though the ways they do so continue to change,” she writes. “Expanding our definition of ‘religion’ can help us better recognize the ways in which they are doing so.”