December comes with many holidays, religious and secular. In our congregation we celebrate Hanukkah as a historic and cultural remembrance, and many of our members also have Christmas celebrations with non-Jewish family. There is also Kwanzaa and New Years. It is a good time of year for ecumenicalism, and remembering our common bond with fellow humans, no matter what their spiritual beliefs. It is keenly important to remember that within our own community, there is a range of such beliefs, and while our congregational practices are non-theistic, we strive to create an environment that is welcoming to all. In fact, one of the things that defines me as a Humanistic Jew is the respect I show for other people’s beliefs and practices, whether or not they afford me the same respect. We should not disparage others who may believe differently, or who practice another religion.
Last month, I was at a conference and found myself at dinner with two younger colleagues in my field. Over the course of the evening, we found we were all Jewish. One was raised in an observant community in North London, the other raised Conservative but had found her way to becoming Orthodox. We had an interesting and respectful conversation about the heritage we shared and the personal choices each of us has made as we found the appropriate outlets for our own versions of Judaism, a reminder of what we all have to learn from each other.
Respect for others beliefs is not the same as accepting the bad things individuals may do in the name of religion. As a humanist, I try to speak up and stand up against injustice.
Many of us support social justice through both activities and donations, and I encourage you to remember to support the congregation as well. Despite being volunteer driven, it does take money to support the programs and activities that keep our congregation vibrant.