What is Humanistic Judaism? How can you have Judaism without God?
Like other liberal Jewish Movements, including the Reconstructionist Movement, Humanistic Judaism teaches that Judaism is an ever evolving civilization. Judaism contains many different religious beliefs and practices, political ideologies, folk ways, culinary conventions, and artistic styles. Secularism, atheism, and humanism are also venerable traditions and worldviews within our shared Jewish civilization.
Humanistic Judaism is unique among the modern Jewish movements in combining Jewish traditions, holidays, and practices with Humanist philosophy and non-theistic liturgy.
What do you mean by spirituality? How can you be atheist and spiritual at the same time?
As Humanistic Jews, we are committed to skepticism, reason, and the scientific method as our epistemological foundations. When we talk about spirituality, we are not referring to communion with spirits, angels, or God; nor do we mean to imply support for things like astrology, crystal healing, or fortune telling.
For us, Humanistic spirituality is primarily a matter of feelings and emotions. Spirituality is the cultivation of positive feelings like awe, wonder, inner peace, compassion, love, empathy, connection, and self-transcendence. Belief in God and spirits is not necessary to feel these very natural human emotions.
Am I Welcome Here?
We welcome everyone! Jewish and non-Jewish; patrilineal and matrilineal Jews; converts to Judaism and people born into Judaism; people of all races, gender expressions, and sexual orientations. If you like what we’re doing, agree with our mission and values, and think it’s the right community for you, you’re absolutely welcome to join us. Radical inclusion is one of our most important values.
Can You Help with a Brit Shalom (Baby Naming Ceremony) or B’nei Mitzvah?
We would be honored to celebrate these major milestones with your family. However, our congregation is online-only, which may present difficulties in the execution of these ceremonies. Please reach out to a member of our leadership team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We currently do not have the resources to offer b’nei mitzvah classes or tutors, but we can host a b’ mitzvah ceremony that honors your child’s accomplishments, if desired. The Association of Humanistic Rabbis or the Society for Humanistic Judaism will be able to better assist your family by finding a rabbi or tutor who can guide you and your child through the process.
Can I Convert to (Humanistic) Judaism? Can the Spinoza Havurah Help Facilitate My Conversion?
Yes! Humanistic Judaism welcomes individuals from other backgrounds who wish to become part of the Humanistic Jewish family and identify as a member of the Jewish people. Humanistic Judaism uses the term “adopt” rather than “convert” because the person wishing to be Jewish is adopting both Humanistic Judaism and our community, and the community is adopting those desiring to be part of the Jewish people.
The Spinoza Havurah is more than happy to help facilitate someone’s adoption of Humanistic Judaism. We welcome everyone to join and actively participate in our congregation. After someone completes a suitable period of study and expresses a desire to adopt Humanistic Judaism, we host an adoption ceremony to formally welcome adoptees into the Jewish people and announce their chosen Hebrew name. We can also offer resources for a DIY mikvah ceremony and a certificate of adoption if desired.
Why are you named after Baruch Spinoza?
Spinoza may have been the first secular Jew in history. He broke with the Jewish community of Amsterdam, but also maintained his independence from the majority Christian religion. He was a rigorous thinker and one of the most important philosophers of the modern world, but he was also a deeply spiritual man. Like him, we are a group of freethinkers who do not accept the theologies and arbitrary religious authorities of the past, but we are also spiritual seekers forging a new path forward.
What Are Services Like If You Don’t Pray? What’s the Point?
In our services, we gather to give voice to the most important beliefs and moral values in our lives. We remind ourselves of everything we believe to be of utmost significance, and challenge ourselves to live up to our highest ideals. Our gatherings are times to celebrate, reflect, meditate, and connect with others. We do this in a variety of ways: silent and guided meditations, study and discussion, poetry, prose, and music.
Our services are typically about one hour long and follow the basic structure of a traditional prayer service, albeit with humanistic liturgy. We begin with poetry and prose readings and music, followed by reflections on unity and love (substitutes for the sh’ma and v’ahavta), then a guided meditation based on the themes of the amidah prayer. Following the amidah, we have group discussion about a pre-selected topic and a group check-in. Following the discussion, we close with another period of guided meditation, a memorial reading, and a closing benediction.
Do I Need to Know Hebrew to Participate?
Not at all. We primarily use English in our services, and reserve Hebrew for short blessings and songs. All Hebrew material in the service comes with transliteration to help with pronunciation and a translation so you understand what is being said.
Why Are You Only Online?
Online congregations are the wave of the future. The Humanistic Jewish Movement is still a small movement with widespread membership, and an online community allows people to come together around a shared interest, such as Humanistic Jewish spirituality, even if they’re geographically distant from one another.