The mission statement of the Society for Humanistic Judaism states that the Society “…mobilizes people to celebrate Jewish identity and culture consistent with a humanistic philosophy of life, independent of supernatural authority.” What does it mean to be “independent of supernatural authority?” What are the consequences of living life without the expectation that a benevolent supernatural entity will save you or help you reach your goals? What is your obligation to human beings in crisis or distress? Does being a Humanistic Jew create an inherent responsibility to help others or speak out on the behalf of those whose rights are being compromised or ignored?
There are two statements from the Core Principles of the SHJ that speak to this concern:
- 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.
There is a range of opinion within the Society for Humanistic Judaism on the kind of involvement Humanistic Jews should have in this enterprise. Do we describe our involvement as community service, social justice, or social action? The Society respects the different social and political decisions of each individual, while holding as the highest value the dignity and freedom of every human being. Humanistic Jews believe that we are our behavior, that words without corresponding behavior do not have integrity. It is in living our values that our dignity is affirmed.
Each year, we identify a particular community service program in which all the affiliated communities can join a coordinated community service project or a time of year in which to focus on community service as an organization. For the past two years, the Society has joined in a coalition of humanists and freethinkers in the Light the Night Walk to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. SHJ and our affiliated communities also have participated in projects that provide for the homeless, support blood drives, and address specific social issues, among others.