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An Evening about Humanistic Judaism

Rabbi Miriam Jerris. Photo courtesy of Sam Sarkis Photography

On Monday night at the Boulder JCC, Rabbi Miriam Jerris presented an animated discussion about Humanistic Judaism.  The program, sponsored by Menorah and MOVERS, was attended by approximately 35 people, including a large contingent from Beth Ami, the Colorado Congregation for Humanistic Judaism.  The lecture was entitled, “Prayer without God: the Language of Humanistic Judaism.”

Rabbi Jerris explained that the movement started in 1963 in Michigan by Rabbi Sherwin Wine as an offshoot of the Reform movement.  Humanistic Judaism began with the Reform prayer book and revised it over time, removing all references to God.

Rabbi Jerris, a member of the Society for Humanistic Judaism and an ordained Rabbi, stated that Humanistic Judaism focuses on Jewish history and culture and that services do not follow a liturgy or have traditional prayers.  The prayers focus on placing reliance on self and others. Rabbi Jerris concluded her presentation by teaching those assembled three songs traditionally used in Humanistic Jewish services, entitled “Peace Be with You,” “There’s a Place (Yesh Makom)” and “Where is My Light (Ayfo Oree)?”

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  1. Thanks, Tom, for covering this for Boulder Jewish News!

  2. Thanks to Tom Trager for covering Rabbi Jerris' presentation, and to the enthusiastic and interested audience. I'd like to clarify the statement that "services do not follow a liturgy or have traditional prayers." Humanistic Jewish services are held for many holidays, Shabbat, Havdalah, etc. and definitely use liturgy that has been developed, revised and broadened over the past four decades. Rabbi Jerris also carefully explained that traditional liturgy and prayers are frequently used either in their original form, or revised to match the philosophic model of Humanistic Judaism. In addition, a wealth of sources from North American, Israeli and world literature and music are included in HJ services. Learn more at bethami.com and shj.org.

  3. Rabbi Jerris' talk was wonderful but what was even more wonderful to me was the feeling of inclusion I received from the JCC, Menorah and Movers. As a life long Humanistic Jew, I have often felt that my Jewish views have been left at the roadside. Humanistic Judaism is the 5th branch of Judaism yet in the Barnes and Noble Judaica section, not one book mentions it. I love that Beth Ami has a booth each year at the Boulder Jewish festival, and being represented at a JCC event adds to my growing sense of belonging. The quality of feeling part of a larger community of Jews, well, it gives me nakhes.