Consider the following statements:
- Judaism is not only a religion; it’s also the culture and history of the Jewish people.
- You have the power and responsibility to shape your own life independent of supernatural authority.
- You would like to experience Jewish celebrations (High Holidays, Chanukah, Pesach, Shabbat and others) with Hebrew songs, poetry and philosophic reflection.
- You want to learn more about and/or teach your children Jewish history, culture, Hebrew and the ethics and values of Judaism.
If you think that all of the above statements are true, you may be a Humanistic Jew.
Now, ask yourself this question: Is there a place where I can find other people who feel as I do?
There is – Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism. HUMANISTIC JUDAISM AS A PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE
Oraynu is the first Humanistic Jewish congregation in Toronto. It is a member of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, headquartered in Michigan, which is, in turn, affiliated with both the North American and International Federations of Secular Humanistic Jews. Humanistic Judaism has groups/congregations in more than a dozen countries including Canada, the U.S., Israel, Europe, Australia, and Russia. There are more than 30,000 Humanistic Jews worldwide who identify with our Movement. It was recognized in 2000 by the United Jewish Communities (U.S.) as the fifth branch in Judaism following Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist.
It was founded in 1963 by the late Rabbi Sherwin Wine, who was ordained as a Reform rabbi. The Birmingham Temple became the first to identify itself as a Humanistic Jewish congregation. Located in suburban Detroit, it currently serves several hundred member families. It was the founding group of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. Go to www.shj.org for more information.
Check out our RESOURCES/LINKS page for links to videos featuring Rabbi Sherwin Wine speaking on various aspects of Secular Humanistic Judaism
Humanistic Jews value the Torah because it is a historical, political, sociological text written by their ancestors. They do not believe that every word of the Torah is true, or even morally correct, just because it is old. They are willing to question the Torah and to disagree with it. They believe the entire Jewish experience, not just the Torah, should be the source for Jewish behavior and ethics.
The survival of the Jewish people is a consequence of the adaptability of the Jewish people. What has kept us alive is the willingness of the Jewish people to adapt to the dominant culture, while still adhering to the ever changing, yet enduring quality of the customs and ceremonies of the Jews. The common history, literature and fate are all responsible for Jewish continuity.
A rabbi is a leader of the Jewish people, someone who is knowledgeable about Jewish history and ceremony. We choose to be part of the Jewish community and calling our leaders “rabbis” helps us to participate fully in Jewish communal life. Humanistic rabbis are ordained and, in addition to their rabbinical studies, may have either a Master’s or Ph.D. degree in Jewish studies. The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism based in Farmington Hills, Michigan offers a training program for Humanistic rabbis and madrikhim (leaders). Some Humanistic rabbis were ordained in other traditions.
The foundation of ethics is not God. The foundation of ethics is human dignity, human survival and human happiness. Ethical behavior consists of relationships between people. Some people behave well without believing in God and some people who believe in God do not behave ethically.
We celebrate our Jewish identity. We use poetry and prose to express that connection – to encourage reflection and meditation. We sing Jewish songs in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. We create our own liturgy which includes blessings for wine, challah, candlelighting, holidays, etc. As well, we sometimes adapt traditional materials to be consistent with humanistic Jewish philosophy.
Intermarriage is the positive consequence of a free and open society. If the Jewish community is open, welcoming, embracing and pluralistic, we will encourage more people to identify with the Jewish people rather than less. Intermarriage could contribute to the continuity of the Jewish people.
Video Responses to FAQs by Rabbi Denise Handlarski
If you don’t believe God is the source of morality, where do ethics come from?
If you don’t worship God according to the Jewish religion, what makes you Jewish?
Why be a Humanist Jew? Why not just be a Humanist?
Humanistic Judaism is secular and non-theistic? What does that mean?
What do Humanistic Jews believe about the Torah and the Bible?