Pan-Jewish Solidarity and the Jewish Significance of Modern Israel: The 1958 “Who Is a Jew?” Affair Revisited

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The focus of this article is the 1958 “Who is a Jew?” controversy and David Ben-Gurion’s inquiry into Jewishness leading intellectuals from Israel and the Diaspora regarding how to register a child born to a non-Jewish mother in the Israeli identity card. The article’s main claim is that this correspondence must be understood not only as reflecting a continuous struggle between diaspora and Israeli Jews or between Jews of various religious persuasions, but rather as reflecting a built-in tension between pan-Jewish solidarity and Israeli Jewish sovereignty. This built-in tension seems to prevail today as well, and thus our analysis of the 1958 event may enable a more complex understanding of the continuous and seemingly unresolved tensions within today’s Jewish world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-279
Number of pages14
JournalContemporary Review of the Middle East
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 SAGE Publications.


  • David Ben-Gurion
  • Israel
  • Who is a Jew?
  • diaspora nationalism
  • diaspora-homeland relations
  • religion and state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


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