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

Authors: Ofer Shiff, David Barak-Gorodetsky


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.

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pp. 266–279