My involvement with the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) spans more than 30 years. I began as a member with no supporting community, just reading their publications. My history now includes being co-founder of two communities, a 20-year member of a third. a national board member and an Executive Committee member.
The staff and leadership of the SHJ are the most dedicated, committed people I have met in my many years of volunteer work of all types. They understand how to nurture and support volunteers, manage with a tight budget and, most importantly, “walk the talk”. Our members can proudly declare that we say what we do, and we do what we say. We are committed to the same values, unequivocally. The staff and leadership have created a culture of trust which promotes a deep level of volunteer commitment and activism.
My life has changed exponentially for the better. I have friends all over the world because of the SHJ and have never been in the company of so many highly educated, intelligent people. The SHJ has given me the opportunity to stand for something bigger than myself, to be involved in a movement that supports critical thinking and evidence, values the welfare, progress and happiness of all human beings, and the celebration of Jewish culture.
I belong to a number of nonprofits that I love, but none which has changed and enriched my life as has the Society for Humanistic Judaism. I found humanistic secular Judaism when I walked into a Rosh Hashana service with my baby son in a carrier, 32 years ago. I was looking for a Jewish community that would welcome our mixed (formerly Jewish observant, formerly Methodist observant) family, and REALLY WELCOME each of us. We joined our local Machar, Washington DC community and thus the North American Society for Humanistic Judaism at the same time.
I have been highly active in many volunteer roles over those 32 years because I got so much back from participating. I found a community of open-minded, listening, caring and educated members who were willing to wrangle with the issues of our day in respectful conversation, and support each other in our needs. Enjoying each other’s company, we built together a Sunday school to teach our children to gather the facts and then make their own decisions. We reread bible stories to analyze with the children what the author/s might have been trying to teach, not the mandated moral. The children learned to be productive together and made lasting friends from across the DC, VA and MD area.
We also have created many years of wonderful adult education classes, learning intercultural perspectives, Jewish bible meanings, first-person historical accounts, and alternative responses to current challenges of our world. Because our door is wide open to all who feel a connection to the culture, history or values of Judaism, we learn from those of different ethnic, gender, geographic and religious backgrounds who joined us, including a former priest and two former pastors. :) And our children grew up comfortably with differently-abled friends and those from many countries.
We commit much planning time to a variety of life-cycle events that are meaningfully shared with young and old; they are quite individualized to what’s significant to each participant, be it a baby-naming, Bat/Bar Mitzvah, or adult Bat/Bar Mitzvah. Those celebrations stay in our collective memories.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism allows us to share ideas and programs across communities, helping us expand in the US and Canada. Our SHJ board is huge for a working group, 47 people from around the US and Toronto! But we trust and respect each other and each other’s time. Through effective subcommittee work, commitment to time schedules, and regular online communication, we tackle huge projects, like our 50th anniversary event for 150 people in April 2019! It was creative, multi-faceted, organized and fun!
I have done fundraising, protest marching, discussion planning, eulogy-writing, and writing a standardized school curriculum format because the work feels valuable and valued! I would not be involved in a Jewish life were it not for the SHJ. This is my family, and I know many others feel the same
When I was 22 years old, my brother was killed in a car-train crash. Already doubting the existence of a conscious intervening supernatural deity, I turned away from prayer. I was so lucky that Rabbi Sherwin Wine, founder of Humanistic Judaism, was in my town and my family joined The Birmingham Temple, Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in metro Detroit. I found a Jewish home where my beliefs had philosophical consistency. I have always said that I don't have to leave any part of myself at my congregational door.
Then Rabbi Wine recruited me for the SHJ. I became its first Executive Director. When the movement developed Leadership and Rabbinic programs, I began to find my niche and realize my dreams. From the time of my Bat Mitzvah, I had been interested in being a rabbi. I was ordained in 2001. My passion for leadership was always with the movement, introducing people to the concept and supporting individuals and communities to find powerful and meaningful ways to express their Jewish identity, non-theistically. It was the best fit for me to become the rabbi for the Society for Humanistic Judaism to continue realizing my passion.
SHJ just celebrated its 50th anniversary during a fabulous weekend. I've included a pic of our dedicated staff and a short highlight video of the SHJ@50 event.
I was truly a “wondering Jew” until I found Humanistic Judaism and the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ). As a cultural, non-theistic Jew, I did not feel comfortable participating in the traditional branches of Judaism. My husband and I were looking for someplace to provide a Jewish education for our son. After hearing Rabbi Wine speak in Boca Raton, FL, Congregation Beth Adam was founded. I became active in that Congregation, and this is where my son received his Jewish education including his Bar Mitzvah. I love my congregation and so thankful for the Society for Humanistic Judaism giving me that direction. I felt I could be a “good” Jew and honest with myself. I felt I found a spiritual home. I became a member of the board for SHJ and was so excited to find like-minded Jewish communities. At the board meetings, I met people from other communities around the country. We were able to share ideas to help SHJ and Humanistic Judaism grow. I hear this same feeling of joy when new members join CBA and state, “I am so glad I found you. I had never heard of this before.” They continue by stating how they have “found a home. “
At the request of Rabbi Wine, I became the ordained ceremonial leader for my congregation. SHJ has provided me with a strong support system to succeed. As an educator, SHJ has created both a school curriculum and B’Mitzvah program. They reach out to those who are not near a Jewish Humanistic community to provide a Jewish education by SHJ educational professionals using SKYPE and Facebook. Young adults who would never have had a Jewish education or B’Mitzvah and a connection to their Jewishness could have one thanks to SHJ. One of the missions of SHJ is to promote Jewish education and Jewish identity for the next generation. There are many SHJ affiliated communities with schools who are providing this needed education and connection.
SHJ is the center and strength of the web of Humanistic Judaism.
My congregation is affiliated with the Society and I have come to utilize the content available and to appreciate the great friendships I have made with so many thoughtful, intelligent, curious folks who are interested, active members of this organization. It has made my journey to Humanistic Judaism both delightful and enlightening.
My family and I have been members of an SHJ affiliated congregation for over 20 years. SHJ has lent invaluable support to our congregation (as well as many other affiliated congregations in the Humanistic Jewish movement) in the areas of community service, Sunday School and adult education, cultural and ritual celebrations, life cycle issues such as baby namings, Bar & Bat Mitzvahs, as well as weddings and memorials. The Society For Humanistic Judaism is staffed by many hard working people and volunteers who work tirelessly to help the movement continuously evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
A meaningful opportunity for secular and cultural Jews to find community, inspiration, and a path to celebrate their identity with integrity.
The SHJ makes a very positive impact on communities all over the USA where it is active. Areas of impact include community service, culture, and care for families and individuals as they move through life stages (like weddings, new baby, turning teens into lifelong learners, and memorials and companionship in aging).
My family has been members of the Birmingham Temple (one of the affiliates) for over a decade, and we also see the many things this group does for non-members in the wider community as well.
I grew up in a secular Jewish household with no where to go. Back then everyone was affiliated with a temple, except us! SHJ gives us "nones" a collective of places to go and helps grow the collective physically as well as virtually via online communities.
The SHJ has helped Jews like me across the country, who do not believe in a god, to find a community of like minded individuals. Individuals with whom we can share Humanistic Judaism--Humanistic ideals, Jewish customs, holidays and foods.
Our family has been members of an SHJ congregation for almost 12 years. We were so glad to find a place where we would be fully accepted, as one of us is Jewish and the other an atheist. We are glad to have SHJ as a resource for our children's education, to meet our needs for community and service, and of course for social purposes as well! Thanks, SHJ!
The Society for Humanistic Judaism serves an important purpose in providing a feeling of legitimacy (I'm not alone!) and a sense of community for Jews in the U.S. and Canada who identify as Jewish but do not believe in an interventionist god. Without the Society for Humanistic Judaism and its affiliated local communities, secular Jews like me would be faced with the choice of "going through the motions" of traditional Jewish ritual and prayer or disconnecting completely from our Jewish heritage. The Society supports the development of new Humanistic Jewish communities, the growth of existing communities, and a strong voice for Humanistic Jewish values on the important social issues of our time. My experience with the Society is that it is comprised of caring, hard-working, highly intelligent people who are visionaries in their approach to Judaism in the 21st century.