The Society for Humanistic Judaism is dedicated to providing a Humanistic Jewish education for children. Humanistic Jewish schools aim to help students develop the ability to formulate a humanistic 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 are able to express their natural quest for answers that make life meaningful and satisfying.
Through frequent, open discussion, Humanistic Jewish schools challenge dogma, stimulate intellectual growth, and encourage a spirit of free, rational inquiry. Humanistic Jewish 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 ideas of integrity, of living lives that are consistent with our true beliefs – being honest, authentic, and sincere, making conscious choices based on reason and reality, being responsible and reflective, striving for equality and dignity for all – describe our educational values, approach, and philosophy.
A Humanistic Sunday school curriculum is flexible and reflects the composition, interests, and priorities of the particular community. The teaching of ethics and values forms the core of the curriculum at each grade level. Jewish holiday celebrations are school-wide events that bring youth together with the congregation at large. Often, children study family and the Jewish holidays and life cycle ceremonies in the early grades, moving onto the study of Jewish history and literature in the middle grades, and then focus on 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, community service, family involvement, and camp retreats) make a Humanistic Jewish education a stimulating, challenging, relevant, memorable, and enjoyable experience. The Society for Humanistic Judaism offers affiliated communities a Recommended Topical Curriculum for Children’s Education Programs, as well as additional curricula, texts, and resources, and the opportunity to exchange ideas with other Humanistic Jewish educators.
Humanistic Jewish schools are led by a mixture of professional educators, college students, parents, and other knowledgeable adults, often from within the community’s 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 as a Humanistic Jewish educator.
Humanistic Jewish communities offering school programs include:
- Adat Chaverim: Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Metro Los Angeles, CA
- Kahal Am, San Diego, CA
- Beth Ami: Colorado Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Denver/Boulder, CO
- Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Fairfield County, CT
- Machar: The Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism, DC
- Congregation Beth Adam, Boca Raton, FL
- Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community, Deerfield, IL
- Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation, Lincolnshire, IL
- Kahal B’raira: Boston Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Metro Boston, MA
- The Birmingham Temple, Metro Detroit, MI
- Or Emet: Minnesota Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Twin Cities, MN
- Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Morris County, NJ
- Beth Haskalah, Rochester Society for Humanistic Judaism, NY
- The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, New York City, NY
- Kol Haverim, Finger Lakes Community for Humanistic Judaism, Ithaca, NY
- Westchester Community for Humanistic Judaism, White Plains, NY
- Kol Haskalah: a Humanistic Jewish Congregation, Durham/Chapel Hill, NC
- Kol Shalom: Community for Humanistic Judaism, Portland, OR
- Secular Jewish Circle of Puget Sound, Seattle, WA
- Oraynu Congregation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada