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Secular Judaism

Humanistic Judaism, Winter 1979, Vol. VII, Number I

The Workmen’s Circle-the Sholom Aleichem schools-the Peretz Shulen- the Jewish people’s Institute-The Farband-Kibbutz Artzi-  

These organizations have been around for a long time. Although they enjoy no formal unity, they do share an informal ideology which many call Secular Judaism. The word ‘secular’ expresses their strong resistance to all forms of organized religion. While some Secular Jews are avowed atheists and others are discreet agnostics or indifferent believers, all are united by their avoidance of prayer, worship and Rabbis. 

Many Secular Jews have joined humanistic congregations. Others have been hostile because they cannot comprehend how humanism and religion can be brought together. Still others have been ambivalent, availing themselves of the services of Humanistic rabbis without being able to fit them into their ideology. 

Secular Judaism used to be stronger than it is now. In the heyday of Yiddish culture it flourished among the Jewish young. Today it is an aging movement, sabotaged by the Holocaust and affluence and surviving on the fading memories of old revolutionary causes. Nevertheless, it remains an important force in the Jewish community which the Jewish establishment continues to ignore. While it is certainly as old as the Conservative movement and was at one time just as widespread, it has never conformed to the public relations (we love the Bible) image that the rulers of the Jews have wished to convey in America. 

Given the obvious humanist thrust of Secular Judaism, it is appropriate to ask the question: what is the connection of Humanistic Judaism to Secular Judaism? 

In order to answer the question, let me first describe the origins and principles of the Secular movement. There are six main sources of the Secular ideology. 

The first is the ethnic experience of the Jews in Central and Eastern Europe. The Jews began as a nation and until the French Revolution always conceived of themselves as a nation. Even in the Diaspora their fondest dream was the vision of national restoration in the land of Israel. Reinforced by distinct languages, unique work and religious segregation, the Jewish national experience persisted until modern times. While in Western Europe small numbers, linguistic assimilation, integration and formal citizenship persuaded many Jews to define themselves safely as only a religious group. In Eastern Europe the congestion of Jews in the settlements of Poland and Lithuania, where the economy was underdeveloped and the antisemitism was overt, the national experience persisted with great strength. In that environment atheistic Jews never doubted that they were Jewish. Nor did their Orthodox relatives ever question their Jewish identity. 

The second source of Secularism was the ethnic power of the Yiddish language. Before the French Revolution, Yiddish was the universal language of Ashkenazic Jewry. From the Rhine to the Dnieper, from Riga to Trieste, Yiddish was the linguistic bond that tied together most of the Jews of Europe. It was the most distinctive sign of their unique nationality and separation. In the nineteenth century, the new strength of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian nationalism with their strong anti-semitic edges made Yiddish the vehicle for Jewish self-assertion. The folk language despised by the rabbis was elevated into the vehicle for a new popular culture. Novels, drama and even science found their home in Yiddish. Eastern European Jews who despised the yoke of traditional Judaism could drop every traditional ritual and remain intensely Jewish by doing their secular things in Yiddish. To The commonsensical observer the Yiddish speaking atheist from Warsaw was far more Jewish than the god-loving Reform Jew from Berlin.  

The third source of secular Judaism was the Enlightenment. The fashion of science and reason which began in Western Europe and spread eastward profoundly affected the Jewish communities. Jews and rationalists shared a common enemy- the Christian establishment. The clerical power had to fall before the Jews would be free to participate in a scientific capitalistic culture. In general circles, the Enlightenment fostered secularism, a belief that a modern state did not need the assistance of supernatural powers or the clergy in order to serve its citizens. In Jewish circles the Enlightenment became the Haskalah, a movement which promoted scientific attitudes, secular studies, professional advancement and hostility to the Orthodox rabbinate. Secular Jews came to believe that organized religion, with its anti-scientific bias, was the enemy of human advancement and Jewish progress. 

The fourth source of Jewish Secularism was the message of Marxism. While the successful Jewish bourgeoisie of Western Europe were embarrassed by the revolutionary ideology of Karl Marx, many Jews in Eastern Europe, angered by poverty, antisemitism, underemployment of their intellectual skills and the passivity of their rabbinic leaders turned to Marxism. Regarding religion as the tool of the bourgeois establishment to justify the oppression of the working class, Jewish Marxists were militantly atheistic. Ironically, however, their provocative Yom Kippur eve dances and feasts, with their rich Yiddish intellectual debates, seemed more Jewish than the decorous Protestant style religious services of classical Reform. 

The fifth source of Secular Judaism was antisemitism itself. Although Marx proclaimed the international solidarity of the working class and implied that a Jewish proletarian was closer to a Russian worker than to his obvious Jewish relatives who ran businesses and spoke Yiddish, Jews found that Russian workers were as antisemitic as the Russian bourgeoisie. Stunned by this rejection but unwilling to abandon Marxism, thousands of Russian Jews reluctantly discovered that they were only comfortable doing their Marxism with other Jews. 

The last source of Jewish Secularism was Zionism. Responding to the emergence of the new antisemitism in Eastern and Western Europe, Zionism sought to solve the Jewish problem by making the Jews normal again, by turning them back into a territorial nation. The new antisemitism did not despise Jews because of their religion. It despised Jews because they were viewed as economic parasites and rootless intellectuals. Many Jewish secularists were drawn to Zionism because they were the victims of antisemitism also, and because they saw Palestine as a place where Jews could become a ‘normal’ nation rooted and close to the land. 

They did not wish to restore the old Israel. They wanted to create the new Israel, which would be a shining socialist beacon to the world. Most of the founders of the agricultural settlements in Palestine were fanatic secularists who wanted nothing at all to do with organized religion, but who wanted to express their Jewishness through Hebrew culture and Jewish nationality. 

Many of the immigrants who came to America after the Russian pogroms were not Orthodox (as their grandchildren often imagine). They were secular intellectuals, secular radicals and secular Zionists. They became the most creative element in American Yiddih culture. From the Jewish Daily Forward to the Second Avenue theaters they spawned a cultural life that required neither synagogues nor rabbis to make it Jewish. In fact, the passive traditional community fed off the enthusiasm they engendered. Secular achievement, much more than the Torah lifestyle, produced New York Judaism, the power of which radiated all over the world. The American Jewish Secular experience was reinforced by the vitality of Jewish Secular life in Poland, Russia and Palestine. The ideas of Ahad Haam, Simon Dubnow, Haim Zhetlovsky, Ber Borochov, Sholom Aleichem and dozens of others became the prestigious voice of this aggressive movement. Divided on a thousand issues, it was still able to challenge the traditional forces with a dynamic Jewish alternative. 

The principles of this challenge were never clearly articulated as a consistent shared ideology. But they were always implied in Secular behavior. 

Here they are. 

  1. The Jews are not a religious community. They are a nation. 
  1. The chief manifestation of Jewish nationality is a unique language. Left-wing Marxists claimed that it was Yiddish and Yiddish alone. Zionists (because they did not wish to exclude Oriental Jews and because they wished to affirm their connection with the ancient Jewish past) claimed that it was Yiddish temporarily but Hebrew ultimately. 
  1. Religion, which is the worship of God with all its attendant traditional rituals, is superstitious and harmful. Synagogues and rabbis keep Jews from devoting their energies to practical matters. 
  1. The Jewish tradition consists of both theology and ethics. While the theology is useless, many of the ethical values are still valid. They arise out of the Jewish experience. Although values like peace and justice are universal, Jews can best understand them by relating them to their own historic experience. 
  1. Jewish holidays did not start out as commands of God. They started out as nature festivals and community celebrations which were intended to bind the Jewish people together and to give them a sense of unity. They are not religious holidays. They are folk festivals. They can easily be reinterpreted to emphasize the importance of the Jewish people as opposed to the importance of God. 
  1. The Jewish people should be preserved and Jewish identity should be promoted because cultural diversity is better than world uniformity. 

These six principles are ideas which Humanistic Jews would be comfortable with-with a few reservations. 

Here are the reservations. 

  1. The Jews are indeed an international recognition. With the destruction of Eastern European Jewry, the drive of secular Jews to achieve this recognition was subverted. What remained was a regretful nostalgia for a world that no longer existed. Neither proletarian solidarity nor Yiddish sentimentalism are appropriate to the affluent Jewish bourgeoisie who are part of the managerial class. 
  1. Yiddish has died and Hebrew is the language of only one-fifth of the Jewish people. English is spoken by more Jews than any other language. While language is still an important sign of Jewish identity, it cannot be the most important sign. The celebration of national holidays and cooperation for mutual defense now replace them. 
  1. Religion is not essentially the worship of God. It is the way (as the Jewish sociologist Emile Durkheim pointed out) tribes and nations celebrate their immortality. The Jewish community transcends the life of any individual Jew and gives him continuity. A secular religion is not a contradiction in terms. It is (as the French humanist August Comte implied) simply describing in natural terms what tradition described in supernatural terms (by turning the community and its ancestors into God). 
  1. Jewish ethics require Jewish teachers. Secular Jews always relied on Yiddish linguists, renegade scholars and practical leaders to serve the teaching function Since they associated rabbis with religion, they could never conceive of a secular rabbi. This limitation has left them without professional leadership. The old informal ethical leadership has disappeared. And no real provision was made for the training of secular professionals who would serve as ethical guides, cultural scholars, creators of new materials, philosophical counselors and community leaders. Secular Judaism has to rely on inadequately trained leadership, which receives neither (sic) recognition from its own community, the Jewish community or the general public.  They need secular rabbis. 
  1. Since the Marxist debacle, secular Jews have lost their sense of being more than Jews, of belonging to a larger human community. Humanism is the religious celebration of the unity of the world community. Jewish holidays are necessary. But they are not enough. Secular Judaism has become parochial. It has lost the transcendent and universal thrust that the old May Day celebration had. As bourgeois and managerials Jews, Secular Jews have not yet figured out how to integrate their Jewishness with their humanistic loyalties. 
  1. Cultural diversity is important. But in the ‘global village’ national cultures tend to become less different and to conform to an emerging world culture of shared technology. Strident affirmations of national difference are less realistic than viewing national culture as an aesthetic option in certain areas of our lives. Otherwise our behavior will never fit our propaganda. 

Despite these reservations, Humanistic Judaism and Secular Judaism share unities that are far stronger than differences. 

We have every reason to cooperate and to help each other. 

Here We Are: A Process of Self-Awareness

Humanistic Judaism, Autumn 1989, Issues Facing The Movement, page 3

Twenty-six years ago in 1963, eight families and I organized the Birmingham Temple. During the next year or two, what evolved out of our very intense, passionate discussions was an ideology that gave purpose to the organization we had established, and we gave a name to it. We called it Humanistic Judaism. 

Although we certainly didn’t use the word movement, in some respects at that time there was a kind of movement. That is, we were moving. We were out there trying to share the message. People were contacting us. We had a sense that we had something important to say and that we had a responsibility to share it with others who would find it meaningful. So, although we were only a tiny organization trying to grow, we had a sense that we were moving; and it was a kind of beginning, if you will, of a movement. 

We have been on the move in a variety of places for a long, long time. I have a lot of memories of the evolution of the movement. The rabbis’ meeting with Dan Friedman in 1967 in Detroit, and the beginning of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis, when six rabbis from the Reform movement signed a humanistic statement. In 1969, when Congregation Beth Or very courageously determined that it was a humanistic congregation. The meeting in 1970 in Detroit, the first meeting of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. It was in that year also that the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations (CSJO) was formed. The meeting in 1981 at Kibbutz Shefayim in Israel. We had taken a group over to see whether, with the help of (M.K. Shulamit  Aloni, we could contact leading Israelis in the humanistic and secular tradition. The meeting in 1982 – Gerry Revzin, Executive Director of the CSJO, was there – when secularists who had not spoken to each other for eighty-six years finally met face-to-face. They had been divided by issues and conflicts they couldn’t even remember; they didn’t remember why they were mad at each other. We came together, and out of that came the Leadership Conference of Secular Humanistic Jews. The meeting in 1983 when Miriam Jerris, Executive Director of the Society, and I went to Israel, where Zev Katz, together with Yehuda Bauer, was instrumental in organizing the Israel Association for Secular Humanistic Judaism. The meeting in 1985 in Jerusalem, when The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism was established, and a year later in 1986 in Detroit, when the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews was established, and a year later when the North American section of the Federation held its first meeting in New Jersey. That marvelous meeting in 1988 in Brussels – a warm celebration of our movement – when, as a movement, we expressed our ideas on Who is a Jew

So we’ve been moving for a long time. We’re in the process now of what I call self-awareness. Sometimes you behave and you act and you do, and all of a sudden you stop and say, semicolon “So, where am I – what am I doing?” 

 Along the way we discovered that what we were doing was important. We had an important message. We were helping people. We were providing an opportunity for effective identity for a lot of people. It became clear that young people with children wanted to join a group in which if somebody asked their children what they were, they could respond with a label that somebody knew about. That was possible only if there was some kind of visibility. 

Along the way, of course, in this movement, we ran across a lot of problems. There was the problem of parochialism – the people who said, “I’ve got my friends here in this town. We got together and had a marvellous discussion. We liked the food. We enjoyed their company. Why do you hok me a tchynik?” 

To take a group of secular humans and turn them into an organization is a great feat. Because each one of us is autonomous. Each one of us is in charge of his or her life. Each one of us has his or her mind. Each one of us has his or her ideas. Not only that – many of us have memories of having belonged to oppressive organizations that sought to hit us over the head, and so we don’t like organizations. 

Then we have had the problem of negativism. It was hard to feel ourselves to be a movement because we were always telling people what we did not believe. We second; the movement is more than a series of organizations. The organizational chart is very important, but if you think that’s the movement, it’s like thinking that the skeleton is the person. The movement is the collection of people who experience a sense of solidarity through this shared message and shared need, who are drawn together by passions and by commitments to do something. In the process, they may create organizations, but the organization isn’t the movement. The movement needs the organization, but the movement is bigger and broader than that. It is the sum total of all of the people and their passions.  

It is important to remember that we are bigger than we seem. I mentioned that we were a movement to somebody in Detroit who is not a secular humanist. He said, “A movement! You, a movement? Chutzpah! This is colossal chutzpah – calling yourself a movement. One thousand – now, that’s a movement. The conservatives – five hundred thousand, that’s a movement. What are you talking about, a movement?”  

We are indeed a movement because our appeal is to an enormous number of people. 40% of the Jews in this country are unaffiliated. In many cases, they are alienated from existing Jewish institutions. And if you could sit them down and have a conversation with them, they would discover that although they have no label for what they are, they are most likely secular humanistic Jews.  

So we have large numbers out there, potential numbers, and our chutzpah is associated with the fact that we have some kind of responsibility to reach them. I believe that if you have something that you think is beneficial to other people, then you want to share it with them – not in some aggressive missionary fashion, but you certainly let people know you’ re around. You have a moral responsibility if somebody needs you.  

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The movement is more than a series of organizations… It is the sum of all the people and their passions.  

We’re a group that didn’t believe in God, and that’s how we got in the newspapers. Other groups were movements because they had something positive to say. We were the anti-movement. 

And there were all these internal arguments – the ones that divided fundus and Zionist, and the arguments that divided secularists and humanists, and the arguments that many people couldn’t remember but the residual emotional hostility survived. 

Then there was the problem of being on the periphery. There is a thing called self-esteem. Big reform temples have self-esteem. They know they deserve to exist. But our group had a kind of Jewish angst. Should we be? Do we have a right to be? Don’t we have a right to be? Should we open our mouths? 

So what we are in the process of doing is not simply saying, “ Shall we be or not be a movement?” What we are really doing is an act of self-awareness. We’re here. We’ve come this far. We’ve got a long history. Whether it’s the SHJ or the CSO or the is really experienced or the European Yiddish experience as – whatever it is, they’ve all been moving for a long time. Now, as an act of self-awareness, I’d like to share what I consider to be some very important affirmations – things to remember – as we go through the process. 

First: we have a message. If we didn’t have a message, it wouldn’t pay to organize. In various discussion groups, people were talking about the differences of opinions in their groups and the great fear that somebody would impose an opinion on somebody else. My general experience in humanist and secular groups is that it’s very difficult to impose your opinion on anybody else. People are always focusing on differences. Yet, the reality is that we are united by a pretty strong consensus: our message about Jewishness and Jewish culture and human beings that we give to the world and that defines our movement. 

Second: The movement is more than a series of organizations. The organizational chart is very important, but if you think that’s the movement, it’s like thinking that the skeleton is the person. The movement is a collection of people who experience a sense of solidarity through the shared message and shared need, we are drawn together by passions and by commitments to do something in the process they may create organizations, but the organization isn’t the movement. The movement needs the organization, but the movement is bigger and broader than that. It is the sum total of all of the people and their passions. It is important to remember that we are bigger than we seem. I mentioned that we were a movement to somebody in Detroit who is not a secular humanistic humanist. He said, “ Movement! You, a movement?! Chutzpah! This is colossal chutzpah – calling yourselves and movement. One hundred thousand – now, that’s a movement. The conservatives – Five hundred thousand – now, that’s a movement. What are you talking about, a movement?”  

We are indeed a movement because our appeal is to an enormous number of people. Forty percent of the Jews in this country are unaffiliated. In many cases they are alienated from existing Jewish institutions. And if you could sit them down and have a conversation with them they would discover that although they have no label for what they are, they are most likely secular humanistic Jews. 

So we have large numbers out there, potential numbers and our chutzpah is associated with the fact that we have some kind of responsibility to reach them. I believe that if you have something that you think is beneficial to other people, then you want to share it with them – not in some aggressive missionary fashion, but you certainly let people know you’re around. You have a moral responsibility if somebody needs you.  

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The movement is more than a series of organizations… It is the sum total of all the people and their passions.  

It is important to remember that we have a positive message. We have to be able to say very positively what it is that we believe. We are not an anti-God movement. We are a movement in favor of Jewish culture. We are a movement in favor of human autonomy. We are a movement in favor of the human spirit. We are a movement in favor of human creativity. That is what the word humanism is used. In addition to that, we need to have a personal message. The New Age mysticism is a real competitor, and I think it’s going to be a more significant one. I think by the 21st century there will be three significant modes: the humanistic mode, the New Age mode, and the fundamentalist mode. The establishment churches are going to continue to decline in the power of that New Age mysticism is the power of the personal message. We can talk about Jewish identity, but that’s never enough. You must have Jewish identity plus some kind of message to the individual about how he or she might lead his or her life to make it more creative, more fulfilling, happier, and so forth.  

It is important to remember that labels do not describe reality. Some people live by labels, but I’ve learned, since I do a lot of intermarriages, that labels are very deceptive – that often two people of different labels believe the same thing, and two people of the same label believe totally different things. In several of the discussion groups, they were discussing, “What’s secular? What’s humanist? Why are they together? I am a humanist, but I’m not a secularist. Well, I’m a humanist and a secularist. I’m a humanist because I affirm the human being as the center and focus my attention on humanity. I’m a secularist because I am first this – worldly and not otherworldly.  

Then there’s this argument about “Are we a religion?” There are people inside Humanistic Judaism who view the philosophy as a religion. I have used the phrase secular religion. All I mean by that designation is that we are this worldly and that a religion is simply an organized philosophy of life. 

If we sit around arguing about these words and some kind of exclusive tone, then we are betraying the movement, because the movement is the shared consensus that we all have, and the labels become barriers to mutuality and solidarity when they should enable us to work more closely together.  

It’s important to remember that awareness comes from training. I think it would be nice to have a requirement in every group that a certain amount of time be taken by new members to sit down and talk about the movement – this thing that is yet evolving – so that people don’t just walk in and say, “Well, I like the people,” or “It’s a nice friendship circle,”  or rather that there’s an ideology. Somehow, as we become more self-aware, we have to share that self-awareness with other people.  

It’s important to remember that the movement means communities. The way we reach people most effectively is not simply through sending them literature. The way we reach people most effectively is by seeing the evolution of communities. We can see what happened here in Phoenix with our Valley of the Sun chapter, this community that, in a very short time, has developed bonds of connection and commitment and enthusiasm for their ideology.  

But communities don’t grow all by themselves. They need help and they need support. They need help for their schools and school curricula. They need help with their literature for adult education. They need help to get good trained leaders and teachers. And we have a responsibility, since we have a sense of solidarity, to help each other. Every group has some kind of an experience – some kind of expertise that can help others and can be shared. And that means we, as a movement, have to organize the literature and the teachers and leaders meetings. 

Our movement will have no credibility unless we have leaders who have adequate training and presence. In order for them to be trained, we need to school, and that school is the Institute that was founded in Israel in 1985, which has now established its programs in North America to train the teachers and leaders that we need.  

It’s important to remember that contacts bring friendship and solidarity. One of the nice things about this weekend for me is that I see people I look forward to seeing. There are people I’ve seen almost from the very beginning of history of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, and although some of them some of them live a long distance from me, they are my contact with the movement. what we need to do as a movement is to arrange for more and more events where we can come together, whether on a regional level or on a national level or on an international level. what happens is that the movement turns into something not organizational. I would imagine that people will leave this weekend who have made friends out of strangers – people they never met before who come from other places – whom they have come to know in a very special way in a short period of time, and that contact will be important. Those contacts define the flush and blood and muscle of the movement. 

We need to remember that we are all part of the same movement. People talk about their organizations, and they refer to the movement as another organization out there, to which maybe they would have a relationship or maybe not. That’s not the movement. It isn’t his Institute. It’s my Institute. It isn’t His Society or Her Society. It’s My society. It’s My Society My Institute My Federation and not only is it the people out there trying to reach me with their demands, it’s me reaching them with my demands, and not only people out there reaching me with their sense of responsibility, but my reaching out to them with my sense of responsibility. 

Last, we have to remember that we have a right to succeed. There are many people who are cursed with self-destruction. They arrange their lives to destroy themselves by eternal arguments and protestation. Protestations over small issues and defenses of ego. We have a right to succeed. We have worked. This movement has been moving for close to one hundred years. One hundred years. We have a right to succeed because we represent an important element in the population – the Jewish population – and they need us. The sign of our success will be when each of us in our community, because we sense that we are part of the movement, will never consent to community events being conducted with representatives of the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform persuasion without speaking out and saying, “Wait a minute. There’s a fourth variety in this community, and we deserve recognition.” We are real. We are authentic. We believe in success. That’s what a movement is. 

The self-awareness will continue. We now have to figure how we can make our movement effective and how we can succeed in the way we deserve to succeed. Since I’m a congenital optimist, I think we will.  

New Opportunities and Directions

Humanistic Judaism, Autumn 1980

The last annual meeting of the Society for Humanistic Judaism was a quantum jump in our self-awareness as a movement. We emerged with a clear sense of our uniqueness of the Fourth Alternative in Jewish life.

Out of our response to the events, we discovered new opportunities and new directions.

What are some of the new opportunities?

1. We have opened up dialogue with secular Jews. Harold Gales, the founder of the National Conference of Secular Jews, (and the author of an article in this issue) participated in an outreach dialogue during the conference. He expressed a strong sense of solidarity with the aims and philosophy of Humanistic Judaism and articulated the need for cooperation and sharing.
Secular Judaism and Humanistic Judaism are virtually identical in their ideology. They differ in their strategies. The secular movement emerged in the 19th century as a passionate rebellion against the reactionary political and social policies of organized religion. It, therefore, saw all aspects of religious institutional life as hostile and dangerous. In the Jewish community, it organized cultural societies and cultural schools. But it avoided any imitation of congregational structures and rabbinic leadership.

The Humanistic movement developed in the 20th century out of the radical elements of liberal religion. Although it rejected the theological heart of organized religion, it found merit in the community life and in the celebration of seasonal holidays, historic events and life-cycle ceremonies. It also found value in a professional clergy who would provide the leadership for humanistic congregations that the religious clergy provided for conventional churches and temples. In the Jewish community, humanism assumed the format of the religious institution but the philosophy of a free-thinking secularism.

Humanism Judaism and secular Judaism are expressions of the same Fourth Alternative in Jewish life. Therefore, the new dialogue between us is a way of discovering the breath of this alternative and of arranging for joint action in behalf of what we both embrace.

The Jewish community needs to hear our shared voice on important issues like the nature of Judaism, female equality, personal lifestyle, intermarriage and conversion.

2. We have begun an important conversation with Polydox Judaism. Rabbi Joseph Rosenblum of St. Louis, the president of the Institute for Creative Judaism, and one of the leaders of the Polydox movement, also participated in the outreach dialogue which was held at the May conference. Polydoxy, the brainchild of Alvin Reinea, a philosophy professor at the Hebrew Union College, represents the left-wing of the Reform movement. Like Unitarianism, it is a transition from liberal religion to humanism. Well affirming creedlessness and freedom of choice as its basic commitment, most of its adherents are proto-humanists with very little genuine theological interest.

Certainly, many Polydox Jews are more than a part of the Fourth Alternative than they are of conventional Reform Judaism. In fact, dialogue and cooperation with Humanistic and Secular Jews will be more fruitful for them than the futile attempt to find accommodation with the Reform establishment which rejects them. The Second and Third Alternatives – Conservatism and Reform – are coming closer together. Polydox can have no place in this new traditionalism. It will certainly be more comfortable within the ranks of the Fourth Alternative.

3. We have established an important link with our fellow humanists in Israel. As the national homeland of the Jewish people, Israel is the center and focal point of Jewish cultural life. The Zionist reality is of special significance to secular Jews because the founders and pioneers of the modern state were overwhelmingly secular. Krishna Jews were initially resistant to the message of political Zionism.

Today, the tables have been partially turned. Israeli humanists and secularists are on the defensive. A militant orthodoxy is seeking to recruit the power of the government to impose religious values and standards and all Jews. The control of education, family life and public institutions is the heart of their agenda. The new conservative Begin regime has established an alliance with a clerical establishment and is ‘creepingly’ altering the secular character of the Jewish state.

In the face of this new offensive, Israeli humanists need as much help as they can find, especially from those Jews who share their beliefs and values. Although most Israelis are secular in their behavior, the new chauvinism equates religious nostalgia with patriotism. And it finds justification for reactionary political behavior and religious literature. So far, the secularists have not been able to arouse their own forces sufficiently to resist this new assault. Resting all the successes earlier decades, they have taken too much for granted.

More important than the political battle is the cultural opportunity for the Israeli connection. Secular farm settlement and urban huggim have created over the past seventy years a vast amount of education and celebration materials to serve the ethical and ceremonial needs of their people. The literature is so extensive that it is virtually a ‘gold mind’ of usable alternatives for Diaspora Jews. Most of the creative materials need to be translated from the Hebrew into English. Once available, their cumulative effect will be overwhelming for North American Jewry.

The dramatic appearance and participation of Shulamit Aloni at the May conference highlighted the Israeli connection. She is certainly the most charismatic and pragmatic exponent of humanism in Israel today. As a member of the Knesset, and as a courageous lawyer and journalist; she has provided the most effective resistance to religious encroachment. With her help, we hope to sponsor a conference with humanists throughout the world in which would offer support to the secular struggle.

4. We have continued to expand our outreach into the general world. The fellowship of religious, which six to embrace all units who still use the structures of organized religion to express their commitment, will hold it if you can’t switch at the Birmingham Temple in October. The fellowship allows you to chance, at the Cocodrie where is aunt share ideas. In particular, right in the development of uniquely humanistic holidays and lifecycle. The emergence of World Day (November 1) and People Day (May 1) are part of this exploration

The advancement of a secular world culture, which does not eliminate but which supplements natural culture is at the very heart of humanistic commitments. But this attachment needs to go beyond the realm of pious clichés into the reality of community symbols and celebration. We need to train our young and our old to be world citizens and to dramatize this achievement through new and universal ceremonies. We have to start with small groups of people who are willing to be pioneers.

The newly found Council for a Democratic and Secular Humanism is another important vehicle for outreach. The creation of Paul Kurtz, one of humanisms most articulate spokesmen, the Council reaches out to all secularists, whether they imitate or reject the structure of organized religion. It will provide the necessary rallying point for the resistance to the political activity of fundamentalist religion in this country. That battle is the same struggle that Israeli humanists are fighting in the Jewish state. Only the flags and symbols change.

These four new opportunities for dialogue with the Secularist, the Polydox, the Israeli humanists and the non-Jewish community define our outreach and enable us to embrace people of different labels who are part of the Fourth Alternative.

But the outreach will only be important if it leads from talk to action. There are real needs to be served which require cooperative effort. There is the need to publicly define Judaism as a culture, and not as a religion. The prevailing practice among the three other alternatives in North America to explain Jewish identity as a religious identity, or to emphasize that religion is the most important part of Judaism, must be resisted. There are two ways to do the resistance. One is forceful and insistent propaganda. The other is the creation of adequate educational materials for young and old that dramatize the secular side of Jewish culture.

There is the need to endorse what traditional religion is reluctant to endorse. The decay of the historic family is dramatic but not without alternatives. A morality which denounces divorce, singlehood and female independence is both inappropriate and harmful. The mobile individual is a reality, and a potentially good reality, of modern society. This point of view needs to be publicly articulated. And educational materials have to be creative too reinforce it.

There is the need to organize events the political militancy of the new fundamentalism. Unless we resist, we shall find ourselves living in a world dominated by a superstitious and tyrannically religion. For the new evangelicals ‘secular humanism’ is the enemy. We must be able to articulate are philosophy and commitments in a positive way so that those who opposes appeared to be the ‘nonbelievers.’

There is the need to provide professional leadership for Jewish humanist congregations and secular groups. Since rabbis are now generally regarded as teachers of Judaism (rather than defenders of the Orthodox rabbinic tradition), the idea of a ‘secular rabbi’ is novel but appropriate. But for those humanists and secularist totally opposed to any form of religious vocabulary, another title can be provided (the Hebrew manhig, leader, it may be an option). The title secondary to the reality. Without trained professionals’ philosophic leadership, humanistic and secular Jews will never be able to compete with the spokesmen of the more traditional alternatives. Hopefully, liberal seminaries will assist us in training leaders to serve the Jewish community. If not, we shall have to turn to the secular universities for new options.

There is the need to provide a unique alternative talk to the compulsive past orientation of conventional Judaism. Scenarios of the future are equally as important as scenes from the past. Old events cannot be changed. They can only be remembered. But future events are open to the influence of human decision. It is important for us to give equal time to both the before and the later, especially in these times of rapid change. And especially when what is the blonde in the past may not be an appropriate model for what needs to be done in the future.

Humanistic Judaism is expanding its outreach. We are getting bolder and more ambitious. After all, we cannot neglect of the opportunities that are available and the needs that must be served.