Judaica Online Exhibitions

Secularism & Its Discontents
Rethinking an organizing principle of modern Jewish life

An Online Exhibition from the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies 2009-2010 Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania
Has religion disappeared or been banished from the public sphere, as some adepts of classic secularization theory once thought it might? Both anecdotal and empirical evidence point quite decisively to the opposite conclusion. Indeed, religion appears to be more resurgent and present in the public square today than at any time in the modern age. And yet, to deny that religion has not been transformed by its encounter with the modern public sphere, state, and economic order would be foolhardy.

The Fellows of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies during the 2009-10 year devoted themselves to studying the complex interplay and often permeable boundary between the religious and the secular in modern Jewish history. Projects ranged from excavating the hidden theological-political motifs of self-consciously secular texts to the attempted imposition of a secular agenda by the modern centralized state on the ironically modern (and arguably secular) phenomenon of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. The combined effect of the Fellows' diverse and probing research projects was to introduce a new degree of theoretical and comparative sophistication to the idea (and practice) of the secular in the Jewish experience.

David N. Myers