Teen Tzedakah Group shows off backpacks ready for Mercy Center school kids.
Rosh Hashanah eve service ends with a blessing and an Oneg.
The shofar is heard at CHJ Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Family Services.
Members all play a role in making the congregation work. Read about how CHJ is organized.
Members meet for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Sherwood Island State Park.
Celebrating nature at the Tu B’Shvat seder is a joyous event filled with music and good food.
Experience our meaningful High Holiday services with your family at the Unitarian Church in Westport. Family Services are geared toward the youngest kids to age 12; older children are invited to the traditional evening, Kol Nidre, and closing services. Click here for details about the programming for this year’s High Holiday observance. Sept. 9, 2018, 7:30… Read More
Sukkot is a fall harvest festival. CHJ’s annual intergenerational Sukkot celebration will take place this year at Wakeman Town Farm in Westport. Bring your family, picnic blankets (or lawn chairs) and hang out with CHJ friends under the sukkah. children and adults are invited to bring harvest items to decorate this year’s sukkah. A list… Read More
Families are the future of CHJ. Our inclusive, warm, welcoming Congregation includes families of all stripes coming together to celebrate Judaism and being Jewish. From Baby Naming to Sunday School to Bar & Bat Mitzvah to the Teen Tzedakah Group to Adult Ed, you’ll find a community for families and kids of all ages. Humanistic… Read More
The High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are, collectively, a time to mark the transition from one year to the next and a call for self-reflection, self-evaluation and self renewal.
In sharp contrast to the solitary experience of introspection is another tradition that equally corresponds to the High Holidays: the gathering together as a community. At no other time during the year do Jews gather in such large numbers in their respective Jewish communities throughout the world including CHJ. It is a time to be together.
Witnessing, Naming and Blessing
Communities have significant purpose, power and influence both internally on individual members and externally in affecting the world at-large.
Years ago, a late, dear friend of mine who started his career as a congregational rabbi and eventually became a psychologist in private practice introduced me to the power of community as it relates to making the human experience real and more meaningful through the collective act of “witnessing,” “naming,” and “blessing.” For example, think of a wedding. A community of family and friends are gathered together to “witness” the exchanging of wedding vows. Often this fact is even acknowledged by the officiant when stating that, “We are gathered here to witness the marriage of…” or something similar. This is followed later where there is a “naming” that acknowledges the transformation of status when the officiant concludes the ceremony by saying “I now pronounce you husband and wife” or something similar. The “naming” is further reinforced via the toasts during the reception. For the “blessing” think about the burst of applause, cheers, and tears that follows the breaking of the glass at a Jewish wedding or in response to the couple’s first kiss as newlyweds or the other expressions of joy from family and friends immediately after the ceremony and throughout the reception. Even the reception itself is a form of communal “blessing” of the new status of the union of the couple. It is a community endeavor.
Now think of it in terms of the range of other life cycle events such as baby namings, B’nai Mitzvot, graduations, funerals, etc., where community typically gathers and at times, our CHJ community. In each case it is a community that helps create the reality and meaning to the event.
We also see community as a means of leveraging and magnifying individual strength to produce greater results. In the case of living Jewish values we need only to look at CHJ’s social action initiatives both past and current. As a Humanistic Jewish community, CHJ members strive to live the Jewish values of Tzedakah (charitable works), Gemilut Chassadim (social justice), and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). A simple scan of the scope and impact of CHJ’s community in this regard will provide sufficient evidence of the power of community.
As a Humanistic Jew and in anticipation of our community gathering once again for the High Holidays, I am reminded of the fact that it is the people who form community that bring reality and meaning into our own world, through the power vested in us. And, it is people who band together in community to make the world a better, safer, more just and sustainable place to exist. To be sure, in the larger world communal power is very often mixed with theistic rituals and ceremonies, frequently blurring the lines between the power and responsibility of people versus that of a deity. As a Humanistic Jewish community we recognize both the power and the responsibility associated with people and with our community.
CHJ, Your Community
We will soon come together for our High Holidays to take on one of the more challenging and lonely human tasks of self-reflection, self-evaluation, and self-renewal. Yet by tradition we do this intensely personal act within our community, not alone. The image of standing at the edge of a cliff looking down comes to mind. It seems far less daunting of an act to know that the bonds of community are holding on to me so I can look down without falling. And, different from the individual-focused life cycle events as described above, there is still the naming, witnessing and blessing dynamic at work but this time, it is all of us doing it for each other. We are naming, witnessing and blessing the purpose of the High Holidays and our community. We give reality and meaning to both.