Society for Humanistic Judaism Urges Acceptance of J Street Membership BY Presidents’ Conference
Farmington Hills, MI, May 5, 2014 — In a 22-17 vote, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations rejected J Street’s bid for membership in the Conference. In a statement issued today, the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) called upon the Conference “to revise its procedures for approving new members to ensure that they promote pluralism within the Jewish community and urges the Conference to reconsider the application of J Street.” While many of the largest organizational members in the Conference voted for J Street’s admission, some organizations believe that J Street’s positions on Israel and the Middle East place them beyond the pale.
“The strength of the Jewish community lies in its pluralistic nature,” said Bonnie Cousens, SHJ Executive Director. “Although not taking a position on J Street’s policies and activities, the Society recognizes that J Street represents a vibrant, active component of the Jewish community. To exclude so large a portion of the community from the Conference limits the voices that are heard and diminishes the Conference’s ability to represent the full American Jewish community on issues relating to Israel.”
The Society for Humanistic Judaism is the central body for Humanistic Jewish congregations in North America. Embracing a human-centered philosophy of life that combines the celebration of Jewish culture and identity with an adherence to humanistic values and ideas, the Society creates an inclusive, nurturing environment for families with children and empty nesters, pre-schoolers and teens, university students, young adults and seniors, single parents, intermarried families, and the LGBTQ community. Humanistic Jews believe in the human capacity to create a better world rather than in reliance on a supernatural power or an omniscient deity, seeking solutions to human conflicts that respect the dignity, freedom, and self-esteem of every person.
In its 2013 exploration of what it means to be Jewish, the Pew Research Center found that sixty eight percent (68%) of respondents said that you do not need to believe in God to be Jewish. The top responses that described what is essential to being Jewish were historical, emotional, and ethical, and did not relate specifically to Jewish practice or involvement in Jewish life. Humanistic Judaism provides this growing population of unaffiliated Jews, who often identify as cultural, secular, “just Jewish,” “not very religious,” or Jewish atheists, communities that enable them to connect their Jewish beliefs to Jewish practice. The Society helps to organize local congregations and communities, creates and disseminates celebrational and educational materials, provides national programs, including programs for teens and young adults, and serves the needs of individual members who do not live near an existing Humanistic congregation.
For more information, contact the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
— May 2014