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Humanistic Judaism (Hebrew : יהדות הומניסטיתYahadut Humanistit) is a Jewish movement that offers a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life. It defines Judaism as the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people. It encourages humanistic and secular Jews to celebrate their Jewish identity by participating in Jewish holidays and lifecycle events (such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs) with inspirational ceremonies that draw upon but go beyond traditional literature. Its philosophical foundation includes the following ideas:
In its current form, Humanistic Judaism was founded in 1963 by Rabbi Sherwin Wine.As a rabbi trained in Reform Judaism, with a small secular, non-theistic congregation in Michigan, Wine developed a Jewish liturgy that reflected his and his congregation's philosophical viewpoint by emphasizing Jewish culture, history, and identity along with Humanistic ethics, while excluding all prayers and references to God. This congregation developed into the Birmingham Temple, now in Farmington Hills, Michigan. It was soon joined by a previously Reform congregation in Illinois, as well as a group in Westport, Connecticut.
In 1969, these congregations and others were united organizationally under the umbrella of the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ). The Society for Humanistic Judaism has 10,000 members in 30 congregations spread throughout the United States and Canada.
The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism was founded in 1986. It is the academic and intellectual center of Humanistic Judaism. It was established in Jerusalem in 1985 and currently has two centers of activity: one in Jerusalem and the other in Lincolnshire, IL. Rabbi Adam Chalom is the North American dean. The Institute offers professional training programs for Spokespersons, Educators, Leaders (also referred to in Hebrew as madrikhim/ot or in Yiddish as vegvayzer), and Rabbis, in addition to its publications, public seminars and colloquia for lay audiences.
Humanistic Judaism presents a far more radical departure from traditional Jewish religion than Mordecai Kaplan (co-founder of Reconstructionist Judaism) ever envisioned. Kaplan redefined God and other traditional religious terms so as to make them consistent with the naturalist outlook, and continued to use traditional prayer language. Wine rejected this approach as confusing, since participants could ascribe to these words whatever definitions they favored.Wine strove to achieve philosophical consistency and stability by creating rituals and ceremonies that were purely non-theistic. Services were created for Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and other Jewish holidays and festivals, often with reinterpretation of the meaning of the holiday to bring it into conformity with Secular Humanistic philosophy.
Humanistic Judaism was developed as a possible solution to the problem of retaining Jewish identity and continuity among non-religious. Recognizing that congregational religious life was thriving, Wine believed that secular Jews who had rejected theism would be attracted to an organization that provided all the same forms and activities as, for example, Reform temples, but which expressed a purely Secular Humanistic viewpoint. The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, which is sponsored by the Society for Humanistic Judaism and the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations, trains rabbis and other leaders in the United States and in Israel. The Society for Humanistic Judaism was organized with the mission to mobilize people to celebrate Jewish identity and culture consistent with a humanistic philosophy of life.
Within Humanistic Judaism, Jewish identity is largely a matter of self-identification.Rabbis and other trained leaders officiate at intermarriages between Jews and non-Jews, and the Humanistic Judaism movement, unlike the Conservative and Orthodox Jewish denominations, does not take any position or action in opposition to intermarriage, rather it affirms that "Intermarriage is an American Jewish reality—a natural consequence of a liberal society in which individuals have the freedom to marry whomever they wish...that intermarriage is neither good nor bad, just as we believe that the marriage of two Jews, in itself, is neither good nor bad. The moral worth of a marriage always depends on the quality of the human relationship—on the degree of mutual love and respect that prevails." Secular Humanistic rabbis and leaders will also co-officiate at intercultural marriages between Jews and non-Jews. These views concerning Jewish identity and intermarriage are criticized by those who believe that they will hasten the assimilation of Jews into the general society and thus adversely affect Jewish continuity.
Humanistic Judaism is egalitarian with respect to gender and gender identification, Jewish status, and sexual orientation. Brit shalom (baby-naming ceremonies), similar for boys and girls, are performed rather than the brit milah. Those who identify as Jews and those who do not, as well as LGBTI members, may participate in all ways in all Humanistic Jewish rituals and leadership roles.
Humanistic Judaism ordains both men and women as rabbis, and its first rabbi was a woman, Tamara Kolton, who was ordained in 1999. [ citation needed ]. The Society for Humanistic Judaism issued a statement in 1996 stating in part, "we affirm that a woman has the moral right and should have the continuing legal right to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy in accordance with her own ethical standards. Because a decision to terminate a pregnancy carries serious, irreversible consequences, it is one to be made with great care and with keen awareness of the complex psychological, emotional, and ethical implications." They also issued a statement in 2011 condemning the passage of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” by the U.S. House of Representatives, which they called "a direct attack on a woman’s right to choose". In 2012 they issued a resolution opposing conscience clauses that allow religious-affiliated institutions to be exempt from generally applicable requirements mandating reproductive healthcare services to individuals or employees. In 2013 they issued a resolution stating in part, "Therefore, be it resolved that: The Society for Humanistic Judaism wholeheartedly supports the observance of Women's Equality Day on August 26 to commemorate the anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing women to vote; The Society condemns gender discrimination in all its forms, including restriction of rights, limited access to education, violence, and subjugation; and The Society commits itself to maintain vigilance and speak out in the fight to bring gender equality to our generation and to the generations that follow."Its first cantor was also a woman, Deborah Davis, ordained in 2001; however, Humanistic Judaism has since stopped ordaining cantors
In 2004, the Society for Humanistic Judaism issued a resolution supporting "the legal recognition of marriage and divorce between adults of the same sex", and affirming "the value of marriage between any two committed adults with the sense of obligations, responsibilities, and consequences thereof."In 2010 they pledged to speak out against homophobic bullying.
The subject of homosexuality and Judaism dates back to the Torah. The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) is traditionally regarded as classifying sexual intercourse between males as a to'eivah that can be subject to capital punishment by the currently non-existent Sanhedrin under halakha.
Reconstructionist Judaism is a modern Jewish movement that views Judaism as a progressively evolving civilization and is based on the conceptions developed by Mordecai Kaplan (1881–1983). The movement originated as a semi-organized stream within Conservative Judaism and developed from the late 1920s to 1940s, before it seceded in 1955 and established a rabbinical college in 1967.
The role(s) of women in Judaism is determined by the Hebrew Bible, the Oral Law, by custom, and by cultural factors. Although the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature mention various female role models, religious law treats women differently in various circumstances.
Sherwin Theodore Wine was a rabbi and a founding figure in Humanistic Judaism. Originally ordained a Reform rabbi, Wine founded the Birmingham Temple, the first congregation of Humanistic Judaism in 1963, in Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ), founded in 1969 by Rabbi Sherwin Wine, embraces a human-centered philosophy that combines the celebration of Jewish culture and identity with an adherence to secular humanistic values and ideas.
"Who is a Jew?" is a basic question about Jewish identity and considerations of Jewish self-identification. The question explores ideas about Jewish personhood, which have cultural, ethnic, religious, political, genealogical, and personal dimensions. Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism follow Jewish law (Halakha), deeming a person to be Jewish if their mother is Jewish or they underwent a halakhic conversion. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism accept both matrilineal and patrilineal descent as well as conversion. Karaite Judaism predominantly follows patrilineal descent as well as conversion.
Interfaith marriage, sometimes called a "mixed marriage", is marriage between spouses professing different religions. Although interfaith marriages are most often contracted as civil marriages, in some instances they may be contracted as a religious marriage. This depends on religious doctrine of the two party's religions; some of which prohibit interfaith marriage, but others allow it in limited circumstances.
Brit shalom (Hebrew: ברית שלום, also called alternative brit, brit ben, brit chayim or brit tikkun, is a naming ceremony for newborn Jewish boys that does not involve circumcision. It is intended to replace the traditional brit milah, and is promoted by groups such as Beyond the Bris and Jews Against Circumcision. The term is generally not used for girls, since their naming ceremony does not involve circumcision.
The Birmingham Temple was the first Humanistic Jewish congregation. It was founded in 1963 by Rabbi Sherwin Wine and eight founding families, who originally intended that the congregation would be located in Birmingham, Michigan. The temple originally followed many Reform practices but within six months decided to drop most of these, and began to pursue a humanist philosophy.
Jewish feminism is a movement that seeks to make the religious, legal, and social status of Jewish women equal to that of Jewish men in Judaism. Feminist movements, with varying approaches and successes, have opened up within all major branches of the Jewish religion.
The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, founded in 1991, is the only Humanistic Jewish congregation in Manhattan, and the first Humanistic congregation in New York City to be led by a Humanistic rabbi. The aim of The City Congregation is to provide a welcoming, diverse community for cultural and secular Jews where they can celebrate and preserve their Jewish identity. As adherents of Humanistic Judaism, founded in 1963 by Rabbi Sherwin Wine, TCC members rely on reason, inner strength, and the support of community to face life’s challenges and collectively improve the world.
Interfaith marriage in Judaism was historically looked upon with very strong disfavour by Jewish leaders, and it remains a controversial issue among them today. In the Talmud and all of resulting Jewish law until the advent of new Jewish movements following the Jewish Enlightenment, the "Haskala", marriage between a Jew and a gentile is both prohibited and also void under Jewish law.
Rabbi Tamara Kolton is an independent rabbi, modern mythologist, and clinical psychologist. She is a Jewish feminist and teaches women's spiritual empowerment and a feminist perspective on the biblical myth of Eve.
Or Emet is a Humanistic Jewish congregation in Minneapolis – Saint Paul, Minnesota and is a member of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. It is a community of cultural Jews, secular Jews, Jewish humanists, and other humanists, united by a commitment to humanism and by respect and support for Jewish culture, traditions, and Jewish identity, and by those traditional Jewish values most consonant with humanism -- "tikkun olam", social justice. Or Emet embraces a human-centered philosophy that combines rational thinking and scientific inquiry with the celebration of Jewish culture and traditions.
Sivan Malkin Maas is the first Israeli to be ordained as a rabbi in Humanistic Judaism.
Kahal B’raira is a congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. Affiliated with the Society for Humanistic Judaism, Kahal B’raira has offered a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life since 1975. The congregation aims to welcome all who identify with the history, culture and fate of the Jewish people,including multi-faith families and LGBTQ families.
Miriam Jerris was the president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis, and is the rabbi of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. She has been a member of the Society since 1970. In 2001 she was ordained as a rabbi by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism. She also has a PhD in Jewish studies with a specialization in pastoral counseling from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati. In 2006, she received the Sherwin T. Wine Lifetime Achievement Award.
Machar is the Washington, DC metro area affiliated congregation of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. Founded in 1977, the nontheistic congregation celebrates Jewish culture, education and celebrations. The congregation has a Jewish cultural school, social action committee, and regular newsletter, and welcomes interfaith couples.
Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, founded in 1969, is Canada’s first Humanistic Jewish congregation. It is based in Toronto, Ontario and is affiliated with the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
This is a timeline of LGBT Jewish history, which consists of events at the intersection of Judaism and queer people.