The Rabbi Writes: The Society for Humanistic Judaism

The Jewish Humanist, December 1982, Vol. XX, Number 5

If you are not a member, you should be. 

The Society is the national extension of the philosophy of The Birmingham Temple.  It was established in Detroit in 1969 to serve the needs of secular and humanistic Jews who lived in other places and in other cities.  But it has also served our needs in a very special way.  We have found a national support system that rescues us from isolation and makes us realize that we are part of a legitimate alternative in Jewish life. 

The Society is the voice for secular humanism in the Jewish world.  It is the only Jewish organization that unashamedly, and without reservation, proclaims that it is possible and desirable to be both a Jew and a humanist at the same time. 

The Society is a connecting line for humanistic Jewish communities and congregations throughout North America.  Temples, groups and havurot that espouse a secular approach to life and Jewsih identity share fellowship, ideas and creative achievement through the programs and communications system of the Society.  We learn from each other.  Many of the songs we sing in The Birmingham Temple came from Congregation Beth Or in Chicago.  And some of the holiday meditations that started in Farmington Hills are part of the celebrations of humanistic Jews in Los Angeles. 

The Society publishes the literature that gives flesh to the bones of a theoretical philosophy.  A bold magazine, educational manuals and ceremonial materials for secular Jews who need celebrations with integrity are the products of its efforts. 

The Society helps to organize the communities.  When the organization began there were only three congregations,  There are now twelve, six of them with rabbinic leadership. 

The Society promotes the idea of trained professional leaders for the humanistic Jewish world.  For a long time the original secular Jewish organizations resisted the idea of secular rabbis because it reminded them of the oppressiveness of traditional religion.  The innovation of Humanistic Judaism was the willingness to recognize that without secular congregations and secular rabbis, humanism in Jewish life would have no effective presence. 

The Society provides hope to hundreds of ‘lost’ Jews throughout North America who do not live in communities where Humanist congregations exist and who have now discovered a life line to Jewish identity. 

The Society provides a real alternative in Jewish life.  It proclaims creative and innovative solutions to the problems of intermarriage, conversion and life style change.  Having no requirement to find its authority in religious tradition, it can respond to the living needs of living people. 

But the Society can only do this important work-it can only be this important voice-if it enjoys the support of humanistic Jews.  It is our privilege and moral obligation to offer our assistance.  We can do no less for an organization that is striving to make us an effective alternative in Jewish life. 

Buy yourself a special gift for Hanukkah.  Join the Society.