First a visitor, Rabbi Jerris; then a Judaic scholar, Ellaine Rosen

We are fortunate to have two exciting events on our calendar in March.

On Sunday morning, March 19, Miriam Jerris, Rabbi for the Society for Humanistic Judaism, will participate with a panel of local rabbis discussing “The Future of Judaism” at the Jewish Community Day of Learning sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Collier County’s Community Relations Committee. Details for registration appear elsewhere in this newspaper.

Secular Humanistic Judaism, which embraces pluralism, has an important role to play in Jewish continuity. No single belief system or lifestyle can win the allegiance of all Jews. Jewish history is witness to the positive force of diversity. Where diversity and personal freedom exist, there is more Jewish creativity and more opportunity for Jews to find their place within the Jewish people.

A free and open society presents many dilemmas for Jews, but a free and open society breaks down barriers between ethnic and religious groups and mixes people, eliminating old identities and forging new ones. Above all, it creates the “autonomous” individual who refuses to be dictated to by any group. It is apparent most Jews relish this freedom and openness.

As revealed in a recent Pew survey, most Jews do not believe one needs to be “religious” to be Jewish. Younger Jews identify as cultural, and their everyday behavior is strongly secular. The secularization process will continue and expand because it provides personal power, prosperity and options that traditional religious observance cannot create.

Secular Humanistic Judaism serves the Jewish needs of people who want to be Jewish in a fashion meaningful to current times while striving to treat all people with dignity to which they are entitled. Things change so fast we cannot know what will happen in 10 or 20 years, but we can take the energy we devote to useless anxiety over Jewish survival and turn it into guiding Jews to live productive, ethical and culturally Jewish lives in a free society.

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On Sunday, March 26, the Havurah hosts Judaic scholar Ellaine Rosen, who has chosen the title “Witness to Goodness” for her presentation that afternoon. We gather in the David G. Willens Community Room at the Federation office (2500 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 2201, Naples) at 1:30 p.m. for “coffee and chat” before the meeting begins promptly at 2:00 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting Dena Sklaroff at 239.591.0101 or denas27@aol.com.

For secular Humanistic Jews, the most reliable power available to resist human cruelty is human power. Rosen’s research has revealed many examples of efforts that would substantiate this conviction.

The Holocaust is not only a story of victims, perpetrators and collaborators; it is also a story of heroes and heroines – both Jews and Gentiles. Some of the heroic exploits and inventive means by which these brave men and women saved tens of thousands of Jewish lives will be discussed.

Both diplomats and ordinary citizens risked their lives and those of their families to save Jews. Some of their stories have been well chronicled but others are not so well known. Movies and books have told some stories of Jewish and Gentile heroes of the Holocaust, but there are many fascinating little-known incidents and miraculous events which our speaker will reveal.

The participation in, or resistance to, the Final Solution by various nations is also a fascinating but poorly understood chapter in the history of the Holocaust. Some nations willingly surrendered their Jews while others stood up to the Nazis.

Overhanging all these stories is the ultimate question: Would you have had the courage to do what these people did?