Membership in the Humanistic Jewish Havurah of SW Florida

This month the Humanistic Jewish Havurah begins its annual membership drive. As current members renew their membership for another year, we are reaching out to others who have attended our holiday celebrations, enjoyed attending our Sunday afternoon meetings, read this column, and share an affinity with our Humanistic Jewish philosophy. Now is the time to support us with your membership as well.

Annual dues, reasonably set at $85 per person, can be paid by writing a check, payable to HJH, and mailed to our treasurer, Joan Weinstein, 15191 Cedarwood Lane, Apt. 2505, Naples, FL 34110. Dues also cover one’s membership in the Society for Humanistic Judaism (www.shj.org), our national organization.

A question often asked is, “Why do Humanistic Jews need any organized congregation, community or havurah? Why can’t Humanistic Jews exist separate and independent of one another?”

Before addressing this question, it is necessary to explain what is meant by these terms. A congregation, community or havurah is a group of people working together for a common goal. The goal in our case is the affirmation of our philosophy. Our havurah does not have a physical structure, nor do we have a professional leader or paid staff. Our Humanistic Jewish Havurah is a group of welcoming people who together strive to embrace the Humanistic Jewish philosophy.

We recognize a trait that is crucial to the very nature of human beings. We are social creatures. Only through interactions with others do we grow, learn and even exist. It is essential for people to have the opportunity to share ideas with one another. As Humanistic Jews, we need to interact with others, share our ideas, and expose ourselves to new ideas. Therefore, it is necessary for us to have a format for our interactions, a community where we can express our religious philosophy and our way of life, a community where together we can share and create a humanistic atmosphere and can grow more strongly as Humanistic Jews.

Our havurah reflects an aspect of our Jewish identity. We, as Humanistic Jews, understand that to be Jewish is to be part of an extended family. One way of affirming this identity is to create a community in which similar-thinking folks have an opportunity to meet one another, a place in which we can become more aware of relationship and to extend family. It allows us the opportunity to share our life-cycle events, holidays and special moments, not as individuals, but as a family with shared concerns and shared joys.

One unifying belief is the affirmation of human independence of supernatural or other external authorities and, therefore, our right and responsibility to determine for ourselves the purpose and course of our life. Open any Jewish prayer book at random and you will find this fundamental humanistic principle denied and its opposite affirmed. This inconsistency between official synagogue ideology and what we really believe accounts for the indifference or hostility that many feel toward organized Jewish religion.

An organization such as ours is essential for Humanistic Judaism. Our religious beliefs and lifestyles will never be validated, or put into practice in conventional synagogues or temples. If we exist separately or “in the closet,” our voices will never be heard. It is necessary to together create a community that fulfills our needs; places where we can celebrate life-cycle events and holidays and still feel comfortable and honest.

Humanistic Judaism provides an alternative that many disillusioned people find most inviting and acceptable. Please join the Humanistic Jewish Havurah to realize your true “beliefs.”