Jewish atheists and ultra-Orthodox have found a common point: the ostensible Jewish purpose of light unto the nations. Atheists love its universalist Christian tint, and haredi take it for confirmation of their superiority.
The best thing about this doctrine is its justification for staying in the Exile: in order to bring light to the nations, Jews have to stay among them. Both camps are lying.
The “light unto the nations” promise is contained in the problematic Isaiah 42, traditionally a favorite of messianics for its verse, “the former things came to pass, and new things do I declare.” It cannot override the explicit commandment that Jews are “the people that dwells alone.”
Atheist Jewish liberals would not dare say to their gentile friends that Jews possess something which gentiles lack; that the Jewish way of life is inherently better. Liberals have no right to say this, as their way of life is not Jewish in any sense, but indistinguishable from the nations’. A Jewish liberal who speaks of Judaism somehow being equal to Jeffersonian political utopia—what can he teach his gentile acquaintances? His “Judaism” only includes the points acceptable to his fellow gentile liberals; all the rest is abandoned. It has not even been eradicated, as that would have required knowledge of Judaism on the liberal’s part, but simply abandoned, left unlearned and unknown. The liberal’s Judaism is narrower than gentile ethics, a subset of it. Such “Judaism” includes what gentiles accept, but not everything that they accept. It contains only the things which gentiles have long adopted anyway, and therefore cannot serve as a light unto the nations.
Many ultra-Orthodox Jews feel uneasy about showing gentiles their arcane observances. The last thing any sensible gentile imagines as a providential light is a rule to put the right shoe on first and lace the left first. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have withdrawn into secluded communities. In Boro Park, they are just as removed from gentiles as on the Moon. It is highly unlikely that gentiles would stream into Boro Park to learn the truth from those oddly clothed Jews.
Rather, the light is similar to the beacon’s. Ships sail toward it, but it doesn’t go forward to the ships. The beacon stays on its island; the ships move. Nations can start admiring the Jewish way of life only if we prove it to them. After the 1967 war, Jews became hugely popular around the world. By staying in Israel and making it into a strong, daring, unusual state, Jews have the best chance to draw gentiles to our values.