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Message from the President

A Presidents’ Message - An Essay on Humanism

We are a Humanistic Jewish congregation. We have a fundamental understanding of the history and nature of Judaism. So now let us delve a bit into the.......Humanistic side of that equation. Humanism is at least as ancient as Judaism and had roots in many great civilizations. In the Greek world it surfaced as a balance of life, a study of the humanities and letters. It meant freedom from religiosity and the centering of man himself as the prime reason for a society and was devoted to his best interests.

The philosophy of Humanism represents a forthright and honest view of the universe, the nature of man and the treatment of human problems. Renaissance Humanism gave man enduring values, but contemporary Humanism goes far beyond that. That philosophy today encompasses joyous service for humanity, meaning you and I working for our community and each other. It tells us that in the natural world the methods of reason and of democracy must prevail. Humanism is a credo for men seeking to live a happy useful life, and not a theory just for philosophers

Humanism believes in the naturalistic view of the universe and that all forms of the supernatural belief systems are ancient myths which handicap a modern society. Humanists draw on the laws and facts of science, and that man is the marvelous product of evolution. Humanists believe that we will live on in the memory of family and friends. Humanists have ultimate faith in man believing that he has the power of solving his problems through reason and with courage and vision.

Many Religious sects tell of universal determinism, fatalism or predestination. They tell that earthy experiences are simply are a rehearsal for an afterlife. As Humanists we reject that completely. We believe that humans are partially pre-conditioned by their history, that also they posses a..........genuine freedom of choice and action within the limits of morality and ethics. Humanists believe that the individual attains a good life by combining personal satisfactions and growth with significant work, meaningful activities and contributing to the welfare of his community. This includes the arts, an awareness of beauty and an appreciation of natures splendor, as well as a passion for life. Obeisance to a phantom deity may be soothing to some in that they surrender their need for action. The Humanist tackles the pitfalls of life with reason and the understanding that he has the power to steer the course and command his destiny. The humanist believes in the questioning of basic assumptions, even his own, in accordance with scientific method, reason and observation.

This philosophy can be characterized in many ways. Some call it scientific Humanism, secular Humanism, naturalistic Humanism or even democratic Humanism. Whatever it is called Humanism stresses that we have but one life to live and that we must make the most of it in terms of creative work and happiness. Human happiness is its own justification and requires no support from supernatural sources, heavenly gods or priestly admonitions. We here call it Humanistic Judaism.

A Humanistic congregation honors the celebrations, traditions, morality and the ethics of historic Judaism. In our services you will witness the lighting of candles. In lighting candles, we seek a connection with the past, with each other, and most importantly, with ourselves. There is a solemnity to that ritual which no marble columns, tapestries or furnishings can match. As Humanists we hold with that tradition because we find in candle light a........ reflection of the human spirit.

        That is the light that we seek in all human activities.

In the blessings of the wine and challah we pay tribute to the real earthy folks who labored to provide these necessities of life. These blessings are not ritualistic dogmas done by rote, but rather the heart felt inspirational tributes to life, here and now. These blessings establish a connection with both the material things we value and those who labor to produce these basics needs. One of the songs we sing concludes with the words, “where is the path to peace that we all long for?look within yourself, you’ll find it there”. We spoke of Justice and Our Heritage. You recited the words, “ We must heed the call of our higher selves, the call that links us to each other.” Rabbi Wine told us that power, that call, is within each of us. Humanistic Judaism lives by that philosophy.

Many Jews have retreated from traditional Judaism because it did not fit in an age of the enlightenment, rationality and common sense. Sherwin T. Wine was a formidable teacher, and beyond that a visionary philosopher. He gave us the understand that there is a natural link between Humanism and modern Judaism. The modern Jew looks back at the history and traditions of Judaism and finds there is treasure in many of those words, ideals, morality and the poetry. Abandoning these roots is not very helpful and has had the effect of casting many Jews adrift with uncertainty, into a self imposed diaspora of loneliness .

Humanistic Judaism offers an anchor to those traditions, and that moral and ethical base which Jews have honored for centuries. Humanistic Judaism has abandoned the illusionary fiction of the supernatural totems. Modern life without those anachronistic totems gives us both the responsibility and the freedom to govern our lives with the objectives of happiness and doing good in a chaotic world. We understand who we are, where we came from and most importantly where we are going. It takes courage to stand with Rabbi Wine…….. and live the life of COURAGE .

Irwin Cohn CBA President 



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