Essential Questions and Answers about Humanistic Judaism

Essential Questions and Answers about Humanistic Judaism

The City Congregation In New York ( has kindly given us permission to re-publish an informative guide to humanistic Judaism that they have produced.

Please take the opportunity to download the attached pdf: 9 Essential Questions and Answers about Humanistic Judaism. hjukguide9essentialQ&A[1]

and please feel free to forward further copies to interested parties.

Exploring Secular Judaism

Exploring being Jewish without faith

The BBC radio programme Heart & Soul explores what it means to be Jewish without faith.

The programme can be listened to here.

Whilst the journalist, Nick Baker, presenting the programme has clear ideas as to his own secular Jewish identity, it is fair to say the the programme concludes in agreeing that each secular Jew has their own way of identifying with their Jewish heritage.

Big Tent Judaism

The principles of Big Tent Judaism

The idea of “Big Tent Judaism” is one which is central to the beliefs of humanistic jews as it engenders the ideas of inclusiveness and pluralism which are key for a flourishing Jewish community and people into the future.

There is actually an organisation in the United States called the Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) which runs a Big Tent Judaism website and organisation at tent and whose mission statement is: to engage, support and advocate for all those who would cast their lot with the Jewish people

The organisation has many laudable principles which it requires its member organisations to folllow:

1. Welcome All Newcomers

Welcome everyone interested in finding Jewish meaning and community, including those from intermarried households, the unaffiliated, and other underserved populations;

2. Celebrate Diversity

Celebrate the diversity of today’s Jewish individuals and households; Leave behind assumptions about what Jews “look like” or how families are configured;

3. Offer “Free Samples”

Recognize that outreach is not a membership drive but rather the providing of free and open access to a portion of Jewish communal activities; Increase the number of freely available Jewish activities, with no strings attached;

4. Deepen Jewish Engagement

Deepen the Jewish engagement and identity of all Jewish individuals and households, regardless of their institutional affiliation (or lack thereof), by meeting them on an individual level; learning where they are in their “Jewish journey”; and offering them enticing relevant choices from the entire gamut of Jewish life;

5. Provide Quality “Customer Service”

Acknowledge that Jewish communal professionals at all levels not only build community but also provide services, and therefore work in a “service industry”; As such, provide the same high quality of “customer service” that people expect from all other venues in which they spend their time and money;

6. Lower Barriers to Participation

Identify and lower the “barriers to participation” in Jewish communal life that may be keeping away the less engaged, including but not limited to: cost, language, and expectation of Jewish literacy;

7. Increase Points of Access

Increase access to our community not just by being available when people approach us, but also by going out to where people already are rather than waiting for them to come to us; Hold programs in secular venues, place advertisements in secular media, and partner with secular organizations;

8. Create Partnerships

Collaborate with other Jewish organizations across institutional and denominational lines, because individual organizations cannot be all things to all people; Outreach works best as a community-wide endeavor;

9. Enlist Active Members for Outreach

Energize the “inside” for the mission of outreach by training and sensitizing our most active members to create a warmer and friendlier community for those on the “outside”; Bridge the growing divide between engaged and unengaged Jewish individuals and households;

10. Better Best Practices

Develop, share, and implement outreach best practices to help our communal professionals and volunteer leaders achieve these goals.

Whilst the JOI is primarily a US organisation, its guiding principles can equally be adopted by many UK Jewish organisations and most definately apply to Humanistic Judaism Uk now and into the future.

Growth of Jewish population in the USA

New reports show that the Jewish population in the USA is growing.

It has been intriguing to read details of the recent reports by Boston and Brandeis Universities which indicates that far from the projected decline in the US Jewish population over the last 10 years as predicted there has in actual fact been a quite significant increase in those identifying themselves as Jewish.

An interesting perspective from a American viewpoint is set out in this post by Rabbi Falick of Miami Florida on his atheist rabbi blog

Evidently the report deals with the Jewish population in the US. but it seems clear that the lessons to be learnt in the UK is that if UK Jewry is openly pluralist fully accepting orthodox, reform, liberal and humanists Jews as differing but representative members of a UK Jewish Community then there are grounds to believe that a stronger, larger and more confident UK Jewish community can thrive into the future, rather than the risk of retreating into a diminishing minority group.

Articles about Humanistic Judaism

Web content for Humanistic Judaism UK

Here at Humnistic Judaism UK, we are greatly aware of the multiplicity of stories, news, videos and books about humanistic judaism and related topics.

We cordially invite any of you to submit your own exclusive articles about humanistic judaism for publication on the site where, of course, we will be very happy to give you online credit for your work.

Please also refer us to any relevant material on the web or elsewhere which could add materially to the quality of the content on the site.

Thank you for your continued support.

Online Humanistic Jewish Sabbath Services

How to find online serrvices with a humanistic perspective

At the current time, there is no organised Humanistic Jewish community in the UK although it is certainly the aim of this site to develop the same over time.

As such, there is no easy way for a person in the UK to experience a Humanistic Jewish service without travelling to the United States where most organised communiites are based.

All is certainly not lost, however, as Rabbi Laura Baum and Rabbi Robert Barr provide live streaming sabbath and holiday services and recordings via an online synagogue directly connected to Congragation Beth Adam in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Our Jewish Community and its sister community is independent of the SHJ and other humanistic jewish organisations but its core values are humanistic and it is fair to say that they offer in many ways a superb fresh model for progressive judaism in the 21st century.

Please check the informal but meaningful recorded sabbath services such as last week’s service here:

Watch live streaming video from ourjewishcommunity at

and take the opportunity where possible to join in their interactive services taking account of the fact that their timezone is 5 hours behind the UK.


Humanistic Judaism and Israel

Humanistic Judaism and Israel

In recent communications with this site, a correspondent acknowledged that whilst they had an interest in cultural judaism, they did not support Israel or Zionism.

Whilst humanist jews will undoubtedly be critical of some of the things that the Israeli government does, they also understand the unique position that Israel holds for all Jewish people and fully support its fundamental right to exist in peace with it’s neighbours as a democratic state with attendent rights of self-defence.

This post by its very nature is succinct and there is much room for further discussion of the subject but the official resolution of the Society for Humanistic Judaism in broad terms sets out a fair and nuanced position on Israel and it’s future as follows:

As Humanistic Jews:

We reaffirm our solidarity and support of the people of Israel and of the right and responsibility of Israel to defend its citizens. The State of Israel is under attack. We reaffirm our support for the continued existence and defense of Israel. The future of the State of Israel must be secured.

We support Israel, the United States, and others in their efforts to combat terrorism. We encourage the United States to take a vigorous stand in bringing Israel, the Palestinians, and other involved parties to the negotiating table. We support a negotiated solution that assures a secure State of Israel and a demilitarized sovereign Palestinian state.

We support the efforts to find a solution that will bring peace with justice to the entire region.

— May 4, 2002