Material support of synagogues by Atheistic Jews and secular Israel is justified

Moscow, July 25, Interfax - Synagogues as Jewish cultural centers have preserved the diaspora Jews from assimilation for centuries, so they may be lawfully supported by secular agencies, the Nobel Prize winner Viltaly Ginzburg opines.

‘The synagogue has been not only a house of worship, but also a community center for the Jews. So it is obvious why even atheistic Jews, or at least some of them including me, believe that some material support of synagogues is possible and justifiable now,’ Ginzburg said in his article ‘A Few Notes on Atheism, Religion, and Jewish Feeling of Ethnic Identity,’ published in 2004 by Yevreiskaya Starina online almanac.

According to him, the Russian Jewish Congress as a secular body shares his view. ‘State support of synagogues in Israel is unquestionably natural in certain limits too,’ he added.

However even in Israel ‘Judaism’s role and influence exceeds the limits acceptable for a secular and democratic state.’

‘Why public transport stops or is restricted in Israel on Sabbaths? If the believers do not want to use it, it’s their problem, but why the atheists’ freedom is restricted?’ he said hoping that Israel ‘will move towards full separation of religious organizations and all religious life from the state.’

According to Ginzburg, Judaism ‘has been essential’ for non-assimilation of the Jews after they left Palestine. However, ‘unavoidable and ultimate’ advent of atheism will not result in ‘total assimilation of the Jews.’

‘There is a more universal and deep feeling than religion, which also counters assimilation in diaspora. I mean the feeling of ethnic identity,’ he said.

In case with the Jews, ‘being sympathetic to Israel and desiring for it to flourish is an explicit manifestation of such a feeling,’ he added.

In 1995 Ginzburg won the Israel-based International Wolf Prize in Physics. During the award ceremony he said to the jury: ‘I am an atheist but my parents were Jewish and I am glad that there is Israel where any Jew may find his or her home.’