So you’re thinking of joining the Congregation but you have a few questions. The following are questions that have been frequently asked about Humanistic Judaism. The answers are by no means conclusive but offer a perspective.
What makes this Congregation different from other congregations?
We believe that people are the source of moral and intellectual authority. Our services and programs are creative and participatory rather than prescribed and worshipful. Our Sunday School and our Bar/Bat Mitzvahs encourage rigorous and creative preparation of a Jewish subject rather than rote learning and we stress family involvement rather than rabbinical dictate.
What does God have to do with all this?
Some of our members have concepts of a personal God; many don’t. In essence, we believe that religion is a search for the meaning of life–and that we are responsible for the exploration. We do not believe in “omnipotence.” We have no “dogma”. We use free inquiry to challenge old precepts and to create new approaches that make Judaism more meaningful for all. This is reflected in the way we celebrate holidays, write our own services, and participate in the ongoing evolution of Jewish experience.
How inclusive is the Congregation?
Very. What we have discovered is that Judaism has always had a humanistic orientation – therefore, we’ve been able to be far more inclusive than exclusive. Many intermarried couples have found that our Congregation is a very warm, welcoming and supportive group. We believe that we are free to experiment and do what we believe without fear of sanction. We question and occasionally fail, but are never uninvolved.
Who does what in the Congregation?
Our organization is entirely cooperative. There is no paid rabbi or executive director. Most everyone participates in some way. We have experienced members who can, as needed, perform marriages, officiate at funerals, coach Bar/Bat Mitzvah, lead communal events, etc. We invite guest lecturers to discuss topics of interest, and remunerate our Sunday School teachers. We share in the responsibility of creating services, getting speakers, writing newsletters, developing and running educational programs, developing Sunday School curricula, making coffee, building sukkas, and enjoying each others company.
We are unencumbered by the corporate structure and expense of most synagogues. We don’t own a building and therefore do not have a building fund. We rent schools and various other halls for major services and Sunday School education, and our members host Friday evening and other programs in their homes.
How is the Congregation administered?
The Congregation is administered by the officers and Board of Directors, which is made up of officers and key committee heads. All members are welcome to attend our open Board meetings and contribute.
The cooperative nature of the Congregation involves time and commitment, dues are affordable, and membership is highly rewarding.