Jewish secularism, Mediapart by Daniel Horowitz
During the emancipation of the Jews in the 18th and 19th century there occurred in Judaism a kind of schism which arose not from a theological dispute, but from the relegation of religion to the private sphere by Jews who wanted to become citizens like the others. If we put human life as the supreme value, it means that it is not God who is central, but man, whether we are a believer or not. This is why humanist logic is fundamentally secular.
To be Jewish is to be part of the Jewish people without religion being a determining factor. The majority of Jews are also non-practitioners. In Israel these are defined as “hilonims”, an approximate translation of “laymen”. It is a posture that is inspired by both historic Judaism and modernity.
The “hilonims” regard the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. They are Jewish by their traditions, their language, their festivals and the attachment to the literary corpus of the Torah and to the innumerable comments derived from this founding text.
The relation to the world of “hilonims” consists in placing man at the center of the ontological experience. This means that no one can escape responsibility for their own existence. They believe that ethical values, whether religiously inspired or not, were thought of by human beings and should be approached from this perspective.
The “hilonims” wish to perpetuate the history of the Jewish people independently of any reference to the supernatural, but with an emphasis on the Jewish cultural heritage. They believe in the sanctity of the individual and their right to dignity, and aspire to be part of the family of nations. To do this, they draw critically from Jewish sources and select what is compatible with the times.