What is SHJ?
The Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) is the congregational arm of the Humanistic Jewish movement in North America. The SHJ offers a meaningful opportunity for the celebration of cultural Judaism. It provides a pathway into the Jewish community for many unaffiliated Jews.
Society for Humanistic Judaism Mission Statement
The Society for Humanistic Judaism mobilizes people to celebrate Jewish identity and culture consistent with a humanistic philosophy of life independent of a supernatural authority. As the central body for the Humanistic Jewish Movement in North America, the Society assists in organizing and supporting congregations and in providing a worldwide voice for its members.
As members of the Society for Humanistic Judaism:
- We affirm our identity as members of the Jewish People. We draw strength from the history, culture, and achievement of our people. We see Jewish history as testimony to the continuing struggle for human dignity and, like the history of other peoples, as a product of human decisions and actions.
- We demonstrate our bond to the Jewish people through humanistic celebrations of Jewish holidays and life-cycle events. We create and use non-theistic Jewish rituals, services, and celebrations that invoke the ethical core of Jewish history, literature, and culture. Our aim is to foster a positive Jewish identity, intellectual integrity, and ethical behavior among celebrants.
- We affirm the value of study and discussion of Jewish and universal human issues. We rely on such sources as reason, observation experimentation, creativity, and artistic expression to address questions about the world and in seeking to understand our experiences.
- We seek solutions to human conflicts that respect the freedom, dignity, and self-esteem of every human being. We make ethical decisions based on our assessment of the consequences of our actions.
- We believe that it is human beings who have the responsibility for solving human problems. We are committed, in the enduring Jewish tradition of support for social action and social progress, to community service and actions for social justice. We each take responsibility for our own behavior, and all of us take collective responsibility for the state of our world.
We are committed to passing these values on to present and future generations through education and by our example.
- October 8, 1999
The Society for Humanistic Judaism offers a way for those who identify themselves as cultural, secular, humanistic, not very religious, or “just Jewish” to celebrate their Jewish identity, Humanistic congregations, communities, and havurot create an inclusive, nurturing environment for all – families with children and empty nesters, singles and couples, pre-schoolers and teens, young adults and seniors, single parents and intercultural families, and the LGBTQ community – encouraging their involvement in Jewish life.
Humanistic Jewish congregations express values derived from the Jewish and human experience – democracy, justice, tolerance, dignity, pluralism, and equality. They celebrate Jewish holidays and life-cycle events (such as weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs) with inspirational, nontheistic ceremonies.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism’s commitment to Jewish continuity forms the foundation of its youth program. Dedicated to providing positive Jewish experiences for cultural Jews, the Society creates supportive environments – congregational youth groups, post-mitzvah educational programs, annual conclaves, university havurot, web chat lists – through which many teens and university students can discover a meaningful and relevant Jewish experience. The North American youth organization is called HuJews.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism:
- Enables Humanistic Jews throughout North America to communicate with each other.
- Helps to organize Humanistic Jewish communities, congregations, and havurot.
- Serves the needs of individual Humanistic Jews who do not live near communities that espouse their beliefs.
- Creates opportunities for Humanistic Jews to meet and work together at conferences and seminars for teens, families, and adults.
- Creates celebrational, inspirational, and educational resources.
- Provides a voice on issues of importance to nontheistic Jews.
- Provides rabbis and certified leaders for Humanistic congregations to conduct ceremonies, Shabbat and holiday celebrations, and educational programs.
- Publishes a topical journal, Humanistic Judaism twice a year; a member newsletter, Humanorah in the fall and in the spring; and periodic e-newsletters SHJ News (formerly On The Move) and Members Exclusive (formerly Kesher: Community Connections).
- Offers Facebook groups and on-line discussion groups for members who do not belong to communities and for members of SHJ affiliated havurot.