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.

A vision for Humanistic Judaism UK 2

A further post examining a future vision for Humanistic Judaism UK

Following the post last week, we set out further ideas as to the future development of Humanistic Judaism UK.

Central to the progress of the organisation is to make education paramount. This will mean that the organisation keeps its own physical or online library of relevant publications and, in particular, develops relevant training courses for existing and future community leaders; and a recognised Humanistic Jewish curriculum for the children of members.

With regard to organisation, whilst Humanistic Judaism Uk will be the central body, it will be a fully democratic body representing its constituent members which will include local communities and other appropriate membership sections such as a student body which will be key in generating future leaders of the organistation.

A further key requirement for the Humanistic Judaism Uk organisation will be to provide central strategic support to communities wishing to set up and grow themselves across the UK. The modern internet world, will without doubt, assist in this role and provide central resoures to communities very simply. It will, of course, be up to local communities to grown in their own way according to local circumstances.

The key is for all constituent parts of the organisation to adhere to the central tenets of Humanistic Judaism without any part being tied to any prescriptive models which they must follow.

Again, please feel free to add your own constructive comments regarding the future of Humanistic Judaism UK or contact us directly.

A Vision for Humanistic Judaism UK

A vision for Humansitic Judaism UK with key points for discussion

Whilst Humanistic Judaism UK (HJUK) is at an embryonic stage of it’s development, it seems appropriate to draw up an initial “wish list” or vision of what it can develop into.

No doubt the focus will change over time but is important to ensure that the core ideals of Humanistic Judaism UK drive it forward.

This post can thus be seen as an initial discussion paper to begin to formulate the key objects of the organisation.

Here are some discussion points:

1. The Philosophy of Humanistic Judaism is clear and concise. Please see our about page. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Whilst there is always room for discussion and measured argument, the key tenets of Humanistic Judaism as centrally administered by the Society for Humanistic Judaism are to be supported.

As such, for this and for many other positive reasons, HJUK should be affiliated in some way to the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

2. Geography and Community

Whilst in comparison with the United States, the United Kingdom is a small country, it is still far too large and disparate to successfully grow a Humanistic Jewish community in just one place and make it successful.

Having stated this, the age of the internet makes it far easier for a central organisation such as HJUK to centrally administer and promote Humanistic Judaism in the Uk whilst also providing active support to its constituent member groups and communities as they grow across the UK.

HJUK can utilise the power of modern technology to provide educational materials, marketing support and a central forum for all constituent members based on proper democratic principles and good governance.

Of course, Community is a central tenet of Humanstic Judaism and is key to allowing Humanistic Judaism to grow and flourish in the future. It is widely accepted that the bringing together of like-minded people in a social and supportive environment with education and other facilities is a key glue to civil society, which is currently being actively supported by the coalition government, as part of it’s Big Society.

Interestingly, to date, whilst Humanistic Jewish communities and groups have established themselves across North America and other parts of the World, this has just not happened in the UK, yet.

As a result, many of us will know many Jewish people who one way or another will basically agree with the philosophy of Humanistic Judaism but are affiliated to no Jewish organisation as nothing exists to meet their needs or alternatively there are Jewish people who are nominal or indeed active members of theistic Jewish congregations when their beliefs are in reality humanistic.

Of course, the tenets of Humanistic Judaism are such that anyone who wishes to adopt the practices of Humanistic Judaism can join its Community. This puts Humanistic Judaism at an enormous advantage compared with orthodox congregations, in particular, as Humanistic Judaism can be inclusive and not exclusive.

If Jewish people are to survive as a successful group, with presence in the modern World (UK) as part of the general population rather than as an exclusive sect, a modern Humanistic Jewish community must reach out to anyone with an affiliation to the Jewish people. In particular, this must mean working to attract those Jewish people who have married a non-Jewish partner but wish to remain part of an accepting Jewish community and if required, for their own children to be aware of and be part of the Jewish people from whence their parent and grandparents came.

3. Leadership

The creators of this site are currently drawing upon their administrative skills and interest in Humanistic Judaism to envisage the way in which HJUK may grow as a central organisation but whilst HJUK can provide central support, there will be a need for charismatic and persuasive leaders at a local level to forge Humanistic Jewish groups and communities in relevant towns and cities across the UK.

In time, it is to be hoped that full time and fully trained Rabbis in the Humanistic Judaic faith can form part of the Uk community but as in much of community life, it will be the hard work of local leaders who truly believe that Humanistic Judaism can provide a key means to maintain and grow a thriving Jewish community into the future which will be needed.

It is believed that the Society for Humanistic Judaism can provide experience and support in this continued endeavour.

There is a lot more to raise and further posts on this vision for HJUK will follow. In the meantime, we welcome your comments either below or directly via our contact section.