‘Secular” is to “Jew” as “holy” is to “Torah,” as “noisy” is to “grogger,” as “crotchety” is to “Larry David.” Which is another way of saying that this coupling of adjective and noun sounds logical, natural and familiar. Could the same be said of a shiduch on the order of “secular Southern Baptist,” or “secular Muslim”?
Many Jews, for their part, have adopted the adjective with verve. Consider that there exists a small but vibrant religious denomination colloquially known as Secular Humanistic Judaism. Consider that the 2001 American Jewish Identity Survey discovered that a robust 44% of American Jews by birth described themselves as “secular” or “somewhat secular.”
That figure, astonishingly, was twice as high as the one tallied by Buddhists, the nation’s second most secular faith. One of the demographers who worked on that study, Ariela Keysar, recently noted that the number vaulted up to 64% when the categories were jiggered a bit. Members of the Tribe, for better or for worse, are the most secular-friendly religious group in America!
Secular because I don't belong to a synagogue or temple any more, but Jew because I still carry aspects of the faith with me (even a belief in God but especially the moral and spiritual aspects of the religion I grew up with). Plus I just baked two challahs, a batch of rugelah, a giant honey cake with almonds ... and the full range of dinner (including potato kugel but excluding the brisket: my guests are vegetarian) for Rosh Hashonah dinner tonight.
Count me among the tens of thousands of American secular Jews.