I recently learned about ‘Humanistic Judaism.’ I understand it’s a movement within Judaism, but don’t quite understand. Can you help explain?
Humanism is the belief in attaching importance to the human being rather than the supernatural. Humanistic Judaism is a branch of Judaism that focuses on relationship to others rather than a belief in G-d.
According to the website for the Society for Humanistic Judaism,
Humanistic Judaism embraces a human-centered philosophy that celebrates Jewish culture without supernatural underpinnings. Humanistic Jews value their Jewish identity and the aspects of Jewish culture that offer a genuine expression of their contemporary way of life. We believe in the human capacity to create a better world.
Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity. Humanistic Judaism’s focus is on the cultural aspect of Judaism. They believe in the history, ethics, and cultural aspects with no central religious belief and sometimes no religious belief at all. Humanistic Jews celebrate Jewish holidays and life cycle events, but do so for their connection to the culture and community rather than based on the belief in a higher power. Whereas traditional Jewish blessings contain many references to G-d, Humanistic Jewish blessings contain none at all and rather include references to elements (light, sustenance, sun, rain, etc.), people, and humanity.
The first Humanistic Jewish congregation was founded in Michigan in 1963. Various Humanistic Jewish organizations have been created since that time. There are nearly 30 congregations. The group trains and educates their own rabbis and other leaders. The group is a relatively small subset of Judaism. It falls fifth among the branches of Judaism after Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism.
In 2008, NPR’s Faith Matters featured a segment on Humanistic Judaism that may provide more insight.
- Ask A Jew: Reform Judaism - June 30, 2020
- How to show gratitude to others during isolation - May 22, 2020
- Ask A Jew: Star of David Mask - May 3, 2020
- Ask A Jew: The Afterlife - April 14, 2020
- Ask A Jew: Gatherings of 10 - March 26, 2020
- Ask A Jew: What is Humanistic Judaism? - March 11, 2020
- Valuing Volunteers: Three Questions to Ask - January 26, 2020
- Ask A Jew: Are Jewish Dietary Laws Outdated? - January 16, 2020
- A List of Greetings for Jewish Holidays For Non-Jews - December 23, 2019
- Sometimes Civility Is A Luxury - October 20, 2019