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Humanistic Judaism Reading List Introduction

"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:

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 (, 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 (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, and is called hjlist.

A web page of links and information about Humanistic Judaism is available at URL: <>.

Readers interested in Humanistic Judaism might also want to contact the sister organization to SHJ, the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations ( They can be reached through their executive director, Roberta Feinstein <>. 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, or sign up at the web site:

Where Can I Get The Books

[Amazon Associate]The S.C.J Reading List has established an affiliate relationship with Amazon.Com. ( Now you can complete your library and support the continued development of the Reading Lists at the same time, for many books on the reading list are available through Amazon. For those reading this at, you can click the link to the left to browse Amazon's selections. Alternatively, if you enter Amazon using the URL, the reading lists will get credit for your entry. Additionally, when you see the Amazon graphic [If you were at, the graphic would be here] (or "[Buy at Amazon: http:...]") on an entry in the reading list, this indicates that the specific book is available for purchase at Amazon. Click on the graphic/link to go to Amazon and purchase the book.

[Got Questions?]Our goal is to keep this list useful for its readers. To that end, suggestions of books to add to the list are always welcome. In your suggestion, please be as complete as possible; we need author, title, publisher, publishing date, and ISBN number. We also welcome a one paragraph short summary of why the book is of interest. Please send your suggestions to the FAQ maintainer at

The soc.culture.jewish Reading Lists have associations with and Artscroll. The presence of an Amazon ([Buy At Amazon: URL...]) or Artscroll ([Buy at Artscroll: URL...]) tag on a list item means the item is available from the indicated vendor. There is always the possibility that the items status has changed since the tag was added; in particular, items may have moved to special order, backorder, or on-order status. If you have corrections to the tag, or want to provide a synopsis of the book, please drop a note to

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© (c) 1993-2001 Daniel P. Faigin <>