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Jewish consciousness provides the justification and foundations of the Jewish collective enterprise. The future of the Jewish people depends on our ability to promote a consciousness of belonging to the People, its history, legacy, and destiny.


Consciousness - Peoplehood is the collective consciousness of the Jewish People. The consciousness that constitutes our collective social enterprise, our ever-evolving civilization, our aspiration to improve the world and our sense of solidarity and mutual responsibility.

The Peoplehood consciousness is the collective dimension of Judaism that frames and defines our essence and story as a people. It constitutes our communal structures and provides rationale, context and mission for the Jewish organizational system.

This consciousness which is dynamic and pluralistic turns the identity of Jews as individuals into an identity of members of a people. Developing the sense of belonging to the People, its history, legacy, and destiny, is therefore crucial to the Jewish future.

Consciousness resources

Peoplehood Papers related to consciousness. Click to download edition

Edition 1

Jewish Peoplehood and Identity

Edition 11

Jewish Peoplehood in Practice-Shifting From the “What” to the “How”

Edition 2

A sense of belonging to a people

Edition 13

Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it?

Edition 8

Nurturing Jewish Peoplehood In The 21st Century. What Should We Do Differently?

Edition 30

Peoplehood Education - Goals, Pedagogy, and Outcomes

Edition 9

The Collective Jewish Conversation: Its Role, Purpose and Place in the 21st Century .

Articles related to consciousness

What is Jewish Peoplehood? And is it the Right Question?
From Defining Peoplehood to Creating Peoplehood Capital

Dr. Shlomi Ravid

Building a Field

Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz

Between Defining Peoplehood and Exploring its Meaning

Dr. Shlomi Ravid

Peoplehood is here to be re-envisioned

Dr. Shlomi Ravid

The challenges of peoplehood 4.0

Dr. Shlomi Ravid

Further reading about consciousness

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND From the very beginning of Jewish history and memory, the people are central. God makes a covenant with Abraham, in which Abraham, the individual, becomes the founder of a great nation. Later God makes a covenant with the whole people, and the individual Jew becomes part of it by virtue of being a member of that people. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to live by, as were the great promises regarding the land of Israel. The threat, that if the Israelites did not follow God’s commands, were also articulated in the first, second and third-person-plural. Even the resurrection from the dead, as described in Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, is conveyed in language that reflects the group. The Jews will be redeemed as a collective. The same pattern can be seen in Jewish blessings: “Blessed are you Adonai our God” which opens many prayers, establishes immediately the context of the relationship. God is the Lord of the Jewish People and is my God because I am part of that people. Jews are asked to relate to events in the past, such as the Exodus from Egypt, as if they too were present there all together. The sense of the collective in defining moments such as the Exodus from Egypt and in the giving of the Torah transcends time and includes every Jew throughout the generations. It is in that spirit that individual Jews ask forgiveness on Yom Kippur for the sins “we committed”. The framing of Judaism (unlike other religions) is first and foremost as a people. It establishes the people as an entity in its own right. The Jewish people is not simply a collection of individuals. The approach makes the Jewish People as that which carries the religion and develops Jewish civilization. This concept is a core pillar of Judaism. Sustaining K’lal Yisrael (the collective People of Israel) and continuing its legacy as a “kingdom of priests and holy nation” is a core Jewish value for Jewish people to pursue. JEWISH PEOPLEHOOD AND MODERNITY Although the notion of being a people is embedded deeply in Jewish texts, culture and the ways that Jews have organized their communities over the generations, the historical and conceptual changes that occurred in modern times have severely eroded the foundation and relevance of being part of one people. The most significant development was the granting of Jews full legal emancipation, starting in the late eighteenth century in France, and continuing in the century following, in the rest of Western Europe. Through this process Jews received civic rights and eventually gained access to full citizenship in their countries. A highly controversial phenomenon at the time, both within and outside the Jewish community, the Emancipation took a toll on Jewish communal autonomy and the sense of global Jewish collective belonging. This is because it allowed Jews, for the first time, to belong to another national group (the French, or Germans, for example). Many fully embraced this belonging, thus weakening the Jewish ties of belonging. Additionally modern Zionism, which in its utopian version envisioned the return of all Jews to Israel and the re-unification of the Jewish People and the land, offered an alternative collective identity. In its formative years, it actually called for “Shlilat Hagalut” – the negation of the Diaspora, essentially calling for an end to the connections between Jews in different countries. Thus, the founding of the State of Israel as the sovereign Jewish State, on one hand, and the thriving communities in open societies around the world on the other, created a new context for Jewish existence, which was primarily based on religion and individualism or nationalism. The results include Jews outside Israel who tend to see their identity as primarily (if not exclusively) religious, individualistic and spiritual while many Jews in Israel define themselves first and foremost through their nationality, as Israeli citizens. Perhaps the most significant existential change that has occurred is that collective Jewish identity is no longer imposed on Jews by others or by outside circumstances. The decision to be a Jew, live Jewishly and tie one’s destiny to that of the collective have all become the choice of the individual Jew. The combination of freedom from being coerced into belonging to the Jewish collective together with access to other collective, national belongings has brought a decline to the sense of Jewish Peoplehood. The dramatic historical events of the 20th century, such as the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel, followed by the Six Day War and the campaign to free Soviet Jewry, maintained a strong sense of collective solidarity, despite the trends mentioned above. But since those events have passed, and have not been replaced by similarly powerful substitutes, the last three decades, as research shows[7], have seen a significant erosion in the notion of K’lal Israel and the connections between Jews around the world. PEOPLEHOOD IN PRACTICE The belief in Peoplehood provides justification and meaning to a whole set of Jewish norms and institutions that comprise the Jewish enterprise as we know it. The Jewish communal enterprise with its diverse manifestations in all corners of the world is a clear expression of the desire to continue, sustain and develop Jewish civilization worldwide. It is a civilization that both expresses the essence of the Jewish collective (i.e., a socially just community with welfare, education and philanthropic institutions) and helps sustain its existence and spirit. The place of the people is so central in the Jewish religion, history, culture and ethos, to the point that Jewish life cannot properly be understood without it. Many components of Jewish civilization and core obligations, such as Kol Israel Areivim Zeh La’zeh (All Israel is responsible for one another), receive their justification from the importance of sustaining the people and Jewish civilization. It is reflected locally in the way Jewish communities organize themselves. Globally, the passion and mobilization for the development of Israel – the State of the Jewish People, cannot really be understood without affirming belief in the Jewish People and thus, in the claim for its own nation State. The educational message taken from this analysis is to propose a more multifaceted, or “thick” understanding of Jewish identity. While there is no question as to the role religion had and has in shaping the identity of Jews (including those who argue with it), we are committed to thinking about how collective identity makes Jewish identity more robust. Only if we engage actively with both the collective and the individual dimensions of Jewish life will we be equipped to address the challenges of the Jewish future.

Additional resources related to consciousness

Tool Kit

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Peoplehood Papers

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Digital Library

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