IN THIS ISSUE: Preparing for the High Holidays: How Do You Elul? Also, Humanistic Judaism Leaders Speak Out On Western Wall Controversy, Intermarriage, and Circumcision; New Rabbi Goes To Washington; SHJ Advocacy in Action; Remembering Rabbi Wine; and more!
Preparing for the High Holidays: How Do You Elul?
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two of the most well-known days of the Jewish year. Much less famous is the month that precedes them, Elul, which is also considered a time of asking for forgiveness -- though unlike the traditional High Holiday liturgy of repentance to God, Elul is when we ask forgiveness directly from the people in our lives who we've wronged.
While I appreciate that the Jewish calendar has a ten-day period set aside for personal accounting, I prefer the 29 days set aside for peace between hu/man and her fellow hu/man. This is the month...when we assign ourselves the task of making peace with the people in our lives. One might even say that since Elul precedes Tishrei [the month beginning with Rosh Hashanah], and 29 days are greater than 10, that Judaism puts greater significance on peace among people.... In other words, these are the days that Judaism has set aside for secular humanism, and our efforts -- whether we believe in an immanent god or not -- should be focused on humanity.
An activist and filmmaker,
was also studying to become a rabbi at the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism when his life was tragically cut short this past December. The coming holiday season without him will no doubt be extremely difficult for his family and to those of us in the movement who knew and loved him.
We take some solace knowing that David's ideas live on through his films and writing. And we hope that all of us remembering lost loved ones during the High Holidays can draw strength from being part of something larger than ourselves: a community of people that care for one another.
If you do not live near one of our SHJ-affiliated communities and are an
Independent Member of SHJ, or join this month
, you will receive an invitation to a special
Online Jewish New Year Celebration
to be held on Wednesday evening, September 13
And for this Elul beginning in two weeks, here's a simple practice to try:
don't swallow your sorrys. How many times have we thought about apologizing or confessing to our loved ones, only to let it go for another time? Now is the right time to say I'm sorry.
Humanistic Judaism Leaders Speak Out On Western Wall Controversy, Intermarriage, and Circumcision
Much to the dismay of non-Orthodox Jews globally, the Israeli government recently backtracked from a commitment to create a space for
egalitarian prayer at Jerusalem's Western Wall
an eloquent call for pluralism in Haaretz newspaper, Rabbi Sivan Maas and Professor Yaakov Malkin
, leaders of our movement in Israel, argue that "The Western Wall was and remains a symbol of the unique historical continuity of the Jewish people, reestablished in its land by the Zionist movement that founded the secular and democratic Jewish state. The transformation of the Wall, since 1967, into an Orthodox synagogue controlled by the ultra-Orthodox is a terrible injustice."
SHJ executive director Paul Golin
also wrote of the Western Wall controversy in an op-ed for the
Liberal' Jews Are Just As Judgmental As The Orthodox Behind The Kotel Decision
." He suggests the debate should really be between secular democracy versus religious coercion, rather than one religious stream versus another, and encourages the Reform and Conservative denominations to consider their own arbitrary boundaries, particularly toward intermarried families like his own.
Responding to the renewed debate about
engaging intermarried families
in Jewish life, Paul Golin also had a piece in the New York
Intermarriage Is The Wrong Bogeyman
," in which he claims it is not intermarriage driving Jews from Judaism but an inability by much of the organized community to meaningfully address the majority of American Jews who don't believe "with certainty" in a God that answers individual prayers.
Rabbi Adam Chalom
, Dean for North America of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism,
also addressed intermarriage
in a piece called, "
Intermarriage Agony? Been There, Past That
," in which he tells longtime rabbis who are only now offering to officiate at intermarriages: "The one piece missing in most of this dialogue is, 'we're sorry, we were wrong.' For the thousands of couples, families, and children pushed away by Jewish communal shortsightedness over the past decades, some teshuva (repentance) might also be helpful."
And extending inclusiveness even further, in a
New York Times
article about "
When Jewish Parents Decide Not to Circumcise
," our movement was well represented: "'They're inadvertent trailblazers. They're certainly pushing the boundary of who can be a Jew,' said
Rabbi Peter Schweitzer
of the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Manhattan. Rabbi Schweitzer does alternative ceremonies for people who choose not circumcise."
New Rabbi Goes To Washington
Congratulations to Jeremy Kridel for being named the new rabbi at
Machar: The Washington Congregation for Humanistic Judaism
, and congratulations to Machar for hiring him! Jeremy is one of the bright young stars in our movement and we are thrilled to have his leadership in the nation's capital.
Jeremy will be ordained in November by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism and has already been serving our movement with great commitment. He is co-editor of the journal
, had organized Humanistic Jews in Indiana, and led services in various communities elsewhere throughout the years. He is also a lawyer and experienced educator. His full bio is online
We wish the best of luck to Jeremy, his family, and to the Machar community as he begins his new role!
SHJ Advocacy in Action
Executive director Paul Golin continues to crisscross the continent on behalf of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, speaking about issues of interest and concern for Humanistic Jews and secular people in general.
, in May, where he presented to
Kol Shalom Community for Humanistic Judaism
. While there he moderated a diverse panel on
Defending the Separation of Church and State
, video of which is now available on YouTube
In June, Paul spoke at the
American Humanist Association
, on a
with authors Maria Greene and Tom Krattenmaker about "Throwing Out the Bathwater but Keeping the Baby: Religion, Humanism, and Community."
And later in June, he participated in the
Secular Coalition for America
's Lobby Day in
, where he joined with other leaders in the secular movement to meet with Congressional staff members, to lobby against removing the Johnson Amendment preventing non-profits including churches from endorsing candidates. Matthew Bulger of American Humanist Association wrote
a nice recap of the day here
Registration Now Open for Savannah/Charleston Jewish Historical Tour
The next International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism
will take place April 13-15, 2018, in
colonial Savannah, GA, and historic Charleston, SC. Detailed itinerary and registration now available online here. This will be an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel with and learn from fellow secular and humanistic Jews and our family members.
Tenth Yahrzeit of Rabbi Sherwin Wine
July 21 marked the tenth anniversary of the untimely death of Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, who founded the Secular Humanistic Judaism movement in 1963. Our movement still draws upon his words and vision, and his positive influence remains with the many thousands of people who he met and inspired. You can learn more about his life and work at
, and read his seminal book, "
Judaism Beyond God
," now reedited and
newly released as an eBook here
Thank you for your ongoing interest in and support of the Society for Humanistic Judaism,
The Staff and Board of SHJ
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