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Golin Walks the Intermarried Talk as New Head of SHJ

Paul Golin, noted Jewish thinker and writer, comes to Boulder Sunday in his new role as Executive Director of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

ACE at the J will present a brunch conversation with Golin on Sunday, August 27, at 10:30 am. Co-sponsored by Beth Ami, the local Humanistic congregation, Golin’s talk will ask “Who’s a Jew?: Intermarriage and the Future of Judaism.”

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Paul’s writing has appeared in the Forward, the New York Jewish WeekTablet, and elsewhere. He co-authored the books: “20 Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren To Do (And Not Do) To Nurture Jewish Identity In Their Grandchildren” (2007) and “How To Raise Jewish Children…Even When You’re Not Jewish Yourself” (2010). Paul previously served as associate executive director of Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute where he helped pioneer and refine effective engagement techniques.

Golin has two decades of experience working on the issues around Jewish intermarriage as an advocate for inclusion, and is himself one of the few intermarried executive directors of a Jewish communal organization.

“Intermarriage is good, period,” Golin states. “There’s only one Jewish denomination that can make such a claim with no strings attached. Explore how intercultural marriage — often referred to as ‘interfaith marriage,’ in which one spouse is Jewish and one is not — isn’t the threat that the organized Jewish community historically made it out to be. The question then is what comes next, when intermarriage is seen instead as an opportunity for meaning and growth, and previously restrictive definitions of Jewish identity are broadened to include all who might benefit.”

 “What I bring to the table is the perspective of an outsider. I am the target population. I’m intermarried, I don’t really consider myself affiliated, I’m not a believer, and I challenge the congregational model,” Golin told The Times of Israel via telephone from his office in New York City after his August hiring.

“The board of SHJ made a bold move — you could even say took a gamble on me — because I’m not an insider. But my outsider status could be helpful because I’m the one we’re trying to reach. We’re looking to attract people who don’t necessarily want to spend all their time thinking about Judaism,” he says.

The first Humanist synagogue was founded in 1963 by Reform-ordained rabbi Sherwin Wine, in Birmingham, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. In 1969, he founded the Society for Humanistic Judaism, a secular denomination focused on Jewish history and culture.

Membership can be calculated to be 10,000-strong in North America, and 40,000 globally. But according to Jerris, a recent online poll asking Jews to list their denomination had as many as 40,000 clicking “Secular Humanist” in North America alone.

There are 27 congregations in the US and Canada — though many of them don’t own buildings and “synagogue” is not the preferred term — but, as reflected in the poll numbers, more similar-minded groups may convene without officially “joining the fold.”

My personal view is that intermarriage is a benefit to humanity,” says Golin. “People get to experience the ‘other’ in an extremely intimate way and recognize the commonality that all people have. So hopefully, it will decrease racism and misunderstanding.”

Join ACE for a conversation facilitated by Paul Golin,

Sunday, August 27 | 10:30 am | Boulder JCC

$15 in advance/$18 at the door

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About Kathryn Bernheimer

Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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