A Humanistic Jewish Education for Children
The goals of a Humanistic Jewish education are to develop the ability to formulate a personal philosophy of life and a realistic, positive Jewish identity through the study of human experience, in general, and Jewish experience, in particular. These goals are pursued in an atmosphere of free and intellectually honest inquiry, in which children pursue their natural quest for answers that make life meaningful and satisfying.
Through frequent, open discussion, Humanistic schools challenge dogma, stimulate intellectual growth, and encourage a spirit of free, rational inquiry. Humanistic schools teach our children to use critical thinking and scientific reasoning to assess inherited truths. We want our children to know and understand our tradition. When examining the Jewish tradition, we apply the same scrutiny that we would apply to any body of knowledge. The idea of integrity, living a life that is consistent with our true beliefs — being honest, authentic, and sincere, making conscious choices based on reason and reality, being responsible and reflective — describes our educational values, approach, and philosophy.
A Humanistic Sunday school curriculum is flexible and reflects the composition, interests, and priorities of the particular community. We teach our children about family and Jewish holidays and life cycle ceremonies in the early grades, move into the study of Jewish history and literature in the middle grades, and introduce such topics as the Holocaust, Israel, comparative religion, and humanistic philosophy in the upper grades. Or students might choose their own topics for study, with teachers serving as guides and resource persons. Creative, innovative methods and a variety of concrete, hands‑on activities (such as dramatization, Jewish cooking, Jewish culture, field trips, family involvement, and camp retreats) make a Humanistic Jewish education a stimulating, challenging, relevant, memorable, fun, and enjoyable experience.
In some Humansitic Jewish schools the parents teach; others employ professional teachers, often from within the membership. The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism offers a training program for educators, which consists of a series of weekend seminars leading to certification.
Humanistic Jewish communities offering full school programs include:
- Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Fairfield County, CT
- Machar: The Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism, DC
- Congregation Beth Adam, Boca Raton, FL
- Kahal B'raira: Boston Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Metro Boston, MA
- The Birmingham Temple, Metro Detroit, MI
- Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Morris County, NJ
- The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, New York City, NY
- Kol Haskalah: a Humanistic Jewish Congregation, Durham/Chapel Hill, NC
- Beth Ami: Colorado Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Denver/Boulder, CO
- Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community, Deerfield, IL
- Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation, Lincolnshire, IL
- Or Emet: Minnesota Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Twin Cities, MN
- Or Adam: Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Metro Phoeniz, AZ
- Adat Chaverim: Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Metro Los Angeles, CA
- Kahal Am, San Diego, CA
- Kol Shalom: Community for Humanistic Judaism, Portland, OR
- Secular Jewish Circle of Puget Sound, Seattle, WA
- Oraynu Congregation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Most Humanistic Jewish communities without full service schools will work independently with young people to educate them to become Bar and Bat Mitzvah.