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Judaism is often defined as both a religion and a nationality. Jews are a people united by an identity made up of certain ethnic, national and religious elements and who trace their origins back to the ancient Israelites.

Since coming to the West, Buddhism has attracted a significant number of Jewish converts. Several outstanding Buddhist scholars, monks, nuns and meditation teachers have been Jewish and have made important contributions to the development of Buddhism. Why should so many Jews become Buddhists? Several reasons have been given for this phenomenon. While seeing little to attract them in Orthodox or even Reformed Judaism, many secularised Jews still retain a spiritual yearning. For historical reasons they are unlikely to consider Christianity or Islam to fulfil this need, whereas Buddhism is an acceptable alternative. In Western culture Jews often feel out-of-step thus making it easier for them to adopt something like Buddhism that, at least until recently, was seen as rather exotic. Secularised Jews tend to be well-educated, making it more likely that they will know about and be open to the claims of Buddhism. Buddhism’s humane ethical values are similar to those of traditional Jewish culture and Buddhism is free from the complex ritual requirements that some Jews find meaningless and stifling.

See also


  • Buddhism A to Z. Ven. Dhammika, 2007.
  • The Jew in the Lotus, Rodger Kamenetz,1995.