Here’s a little Purim gift for Humanistic Judaism in the form of a terrific article in the Philadelphia “Jewish Exponent.” It appears in their seasonal “Inside” magazine and you can find it reproduced at this link and in more readable form here.
There are some interesting points:
There’s little doubt among researchers that Jews (depending on how you decide who’s a Jew) are more secular and prone to nonbelief than other ethnic groups. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that, while 15 percent of Americans reported “no religion,” 37 percent of people who identified as Jewish reported “no religion.”
That’s a very significant number. The challenge for organized Secular Humanistic Judaism is to reach out to these people and help provide a framework of support and community in a humanistic context. It’s not an easy task, but it’s certainly helped by committed leadership like my friend, Rabbi Miriam Jerris:
Miriam Jerris, a Humanist rabbi and leader in the Humanistic Judaism movement, says, “The overwhelming majority of people I meet tell me, ‘I could no longer say the words I didn’t believe.’ But the words are important.Saying things honestly and with philosophical integrity has value.Belonging to a community comforts us and reminds us that we are part of something greater than our individual existence,” she adds. “This applies across the board when it comes to religion, and Humanistic Judaism fills that same need. There are many things that traditional religion provides that have great meaning, specifically in what the community can provide. There’s also value in being among kindred spirits. You’re no longer alone.”
Though it’s still a very small movement, our numbers are headed in the right direction with new affiliates coming in all the time.
The article mentions that our groups are not anti-religious or atheist. This is technically true, but we are definitely non-theistic, providing a “space” for atheists, agnostics and even the occasional deist.
Anyway, it’s always nice to get some good press.