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The Outlook for Peace in the Middle East

What Does it Mean to be Jewish – Winter 1995 Can Israel make peace with her Arab neighbors? That question has been plaguing the Jewish people and many other nations for forty-seven years, ever since the establishment of the state of Israel. In 1967, the Egyptian ruler Gamal Abdul Nasser tried to mobilize the Arab […]

Tu Bi-Shevat, Earth Day, and Environmentalism

Tu bi-Shevat  – Winter 1993 Jews and Canaanites were at one time the same people. They lived in the same land. They spoke the same language. They worshiped the same gods. Even when the Jews became attached to the cult of Yahveh and abandoned all the other gods, many elements of the old religion remained. […]

Forty Years Later: A Retrospective

Transforming Judaism- Winter 2004 Forty years ago, in the summer of 1963, eight families and I organized a new congre­gation in suburban Detroit. The suburb was Birmingham, and so our congregation was named the Birmingham Temple. Ten months later the Temple family collectively aban­doned God-language — and Humanistic Ju­daism was born. Until that moment most […]

How Antisemitism Was Transformed

Rise of Antisemitism, Winter 2003 Antisemitism is alive and well, but it has undergone some interesting transformations. When antisemitism began, it was Euro­pean. Its historic roots lay in the anti-Juda­ism of early Christianity and the Middle Ages. Its trigger lay in the traumatic world of early capitalism. In 1873 a major economic depression sent millions […]

RESPONSA – Sitting Shiva

Return to Tradition – Summer 1992 Question: Should Humanistic Jewish mourners sit shiva? Responsum: The mourning practices of rabbinic Judaism were built around a belief system that no longer generally prevails in the Jewish community. This system began with an all-powerful judgmental God who was the master of life and death. Death was ambiguous. It […]

The Use and Abuse of the Holocaust

Remembering the Holocaust, spring 1991 The Holocaust is not easy to write about. The planned genocide of the Jewish people is a horror so terrible that words cannot fully describe it. The events can be de­scribed, but not the revulsion and the sorrow that we feel. They lie beyond vo­cabulary. The memory of the six […]


Purim, Winter 1992 In rabbinic Judaism, Purim is less major than Sukkot and less minor than Tu Bi-Shevat. Like Hanukka, it enjoys a not too solemn middle status. Purim has a built-in ambivalence. On the one hand, it features masks and plays and Mardi Gras type fun. On the other hand, it insists on reading […]