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 Secular Humanistic Judaism

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Secular Humanistic Judaism- Humanistic Judaism was founded in 1963 by Sherwin Wine, when Wine and his congregation were excluded from Reform Judaism because Wine preached atheism.

Humanistic Judaism was developed as a possible solution to the problem of retaining Jewish identity and continuity among non-religious Jews. Wine believed that secular Jews who had rejected theism would be attracted to an organization that provided all the same forms and activities as religious temples, but which expressed a purely Secular Humanistic viewpoint.

Wine developed a Jewish liturgy that emphasized Jewish culture, history, and identity along with Humanistic ethics while excluding all prayers and references to God. His congregation developed into the Birmingham Temple, now in Farmington Hills, Michigan. It was soon joined by a previously Reform congregation in Illinois led by Rabbi Daniel Friedman, as well as a group in Westport, Connecticut.In 1969 these congregations and others were united in the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ).

The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism (IISHJ) was established in 1985 in Israel and the United States. Its two primary purposes are to commission and publish materials for the movement and to train rabbis, leaders, teachers, educators and spokespersons. The Institute administrative office is in Lincolnshire, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Most seminars and the Colloquium program take place at the Michigan campus of the IISHJ.

The Institute offers seminars and training programs in North America and Israel. The Institute includes faculty members of major universities throughout the world who serve as part-time lecturers and instructors. Distinguished writers, intellectuals, and ordained Secular Humanistic Rabbis also serve as faculty.

The International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews, comprising organizations in thirteen countries, was founded in 1986. Today Secular Humanistic Judaism has branches and congregation all over the USA, as well as in several Latin American and European counties and Israel.

Humanistic Jewish communities celebrate Jewish holidays and life cycle events (such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvah) with inspirational ceremonies that draw upon but go beyond traditional literature.

The Society for Humanistic Judaism

The Society for Humanistic Judaism was organized in 1969. The Society's mission is to mobilize people to celebrate Jewish identity and culture consistent with a humanistic philosophy of life, independent of supernatural authority. As the central body for the Humanistic Jewish Movement in North America, the Society assists in organizing new communities, supporting its member communities, and in providing a voice for Humanistic Jews.

The Society asserts that it gathers gathers and creates educational and programmatic materials, including holiday and life cycle celebrations. It does not seem to be active in other aspects of Jewish education. It sponsors training programs and conferences for its members. HuJews, the Humanistic Youth Group, offers programs for teens and young adults, including an annual conclave.

SHJ Philosophy

SHJ Mission Statement

The Society for Humanistic Judaism mobilizes people to celebrate Jewish identity and culture consistent with a humanistic philosophy of life, independent of supernatural authority. As the central body for the Humanistic Jewish Movement in North America, the Society assists in organizing new communities, supporting its member communities, and in providing a voice for Humanistic Jews.

Humanistic Jews Affirm That...

...A Jew is someone who identifies with the history, culture and future of the Jewish people.

...Jewish identity is best preserved in a free, pluralistic environment

...Jewish history is a human saga, a testament to the significance of human power and human responsibility.

..Judaism is the historic culture of the Jewish people.

...We possess the power and responsibility to shape our own lives independent of supernatural authority.

...Ethics and morality should serve human needs.

...The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.

The society does not seem to be active in Jewish education, teaching of Hebrew or Yiddish and references to Zionism and Israel - positive or negative, seem to be absent from its creed.


Ami Isseroff

February 20, 2011

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: 

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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