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"Humanistic Jews need a literature that clearly and boldly states what they think and believe" [Win85]
This message is intended to provide readers of soc.culture.jewish with a list of references to allow them to learn more about the current practices, past practices, beliefs, and history of the Humanistic Judaism Movement.
Humanistic Judaism is less well known than Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. But, on a behavioral level, it claims to represent many more American Jews than any of these official ideologies. Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of the movement, identifies three kinds of Jews who are neither honestly Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform. He calls these types the involuntary, the ethnic, and the humanistic. Rabbi Wine defines the involuntary Jew is the individual of Jewish descent who finds no meaning either in his past or in the unique practices of his ancestral religion. He defines the ethnic Jew is the person of Jewish descent who bears a strong attachment to the Hebrew and Yiddish cultures out of which he emerged.
Rabbi Wine feels that these affiliations are negative. He prefers the positive definition of Humanistic Jew:
The Humanistic Jew is an individual, of either Jewish or non-Jewish descent, who believes in the ultimate value of self-respect and in the principles of humanism, community, autonomy, and rationality. He also finds meaning in the celebration of life as expressed through the historic Jewish calendar and seeks to interpret this calendar in a naturalistic way. He perceives that the power he possesses to determine and control his own life is the result of two billion years of evolutionary history. Therefore, his religious feeling re-enforces his sense of human dignity.
On the last page of his book, "Judaism Beyond God," Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine says:
Humanistic Jews want to bring their beliefs and their behavior together and to find their integrity. They are eager to affirm:
- That they are disciples of the Secular Revolution.
- That the Secular Revolution was good for the Jews.
- That reason is the best method for the discovery of truth.
- That morality derives from human needs and is the defense of human dignity.
- That the universe is indifferent to the desires and aspirations of human beings.
- That people must ultimately rely on people.
- That Jewish history is a testimony to the absence of God and the necessity of human self-esteem.
- That Jewish identity is valuable because it connects them to that history.
- That Jewish personality flows from that history -- and not from official texts that seek to describe it.
- That Jewish identity serves individual dignity -- and not the reverse.
- That the Jewish people is an international family that has its center in Israel and its roots in the Diaspora.
- That the humanistic Gentile has a positive role to play in the life of the Jewish people."
Humanistic Jews want to translate these affirmations and commitments into an effective life style -- for themselves and for those who share their convictions. They need a community of believers to worth with and to share with in this pioneering venture. They also need a cadre of trained leaders and spokespeople to provide scholarship and guidance along the way.
Humanistic Judaism was organized by Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, who founded its first congregation, the Birmingham Temple, in Farmington Hills, Michigan. In 1969, Rabbi Wine helped to found the Society of Humanistic Judaism (http://www.shj.org/), whose membership comprises more than 30 congregations and chapters, plus over 1300 families and individual members, as of January 2000. The Society for Humanistic Judaism is the US affiliate of the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews. The educational arm of the Secular Humanistic Jewish movement, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, offers several programs to train rabbis, leaders and educators for the movement. The first Secular Humanistic rabbi trained at the Institute was ordained in October 1999.
An overview of the current status of Humanistic Judaism, written by Egon Friedler, of the Uruguayan Movement for Secular Humanistic Judaism, recently appeared in Midstream (October 1992). Additional information on Humanistic Judaism, as well as publications on Humanistic Judaism, may be obtained from:
Society for Humanistic Judaism
28611 W. Twelve Mile Road
Farmington Hills MI 48334
+1 248 478-7610
The society is internet-accessible; visit www.shj.org (Society for Humanistic Judaism). There is also a mailing list for those with an interest in exploring and/or furthering the development of Humanistic Judaism. The list is hosted at http://www.yahoogroups.com/, and is called hjlist.
A web page of links and information about Humanistic Judaism is available at URL: <http://www.teleport.com/~hellman>.
Readers interested in Humanistic Judaism might also want to contact the sister organization to SHJ, the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations (www.csjo.org). They can be reached through their executive director, Roberta Feinstein <email@example.com>. Inquiries may also be sent in writing to:
Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations
19657 Villa Drive North
Southfield, MI 48076
There is also a mailing list for those with an interest in exploring and/or furthering the development of Humanistic Judaism. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up at the web site: http://lyris1.telelists.com/htbin/lyris.pl?enter=hj&text_mode=0.
Many of these books are available through general bookstores or Judaica bookstores. A list of links to these may be found in the sources section of the General Reading List (if you are reading this at www.scjfaq.org, you can simply click on the "Sources" button in the header navigation bar).
SHJ Press is the publishing arm of the Society for Humanistic Judaism movement. They have a web page at http://www.shj.org/gift.html
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