The Jewish Centrality of Israel The 1958 ‘Who Is a Jew?’ Affair as a Case Study

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This article examines reactions in the Jewish Diaspora to the ways the Diaspora is viewed in Israel, especially with regard to the Israeli self-perception of Israel as the ultimate spiritual and religious center for its Diaspora. These ideas are explored using as a case study the 1958 ‘Who is a Jew?’ controversy and David Ben-Gurion’s famous correspondence with 51 ‘Jewish sages’ on the question of how to classify on an Israeli identity card a child born in Israel to a non-Jewish mother. Focusing on the responses of the Orthodox Jewish sages, I suggest that this correspondence may be understood as a reflection of different, sometimes conflicting understandings of the nature and meaning of Israel’s centrality for Jews and Judaism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-65
Number of pages18
JournalIsrael studies review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Diaspora
  • Israel
  • Jewish sages
  • Orthodox Jews
  • homeland
  • ‘Who is a Jew?’

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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