From left to right, Rabbi Adam Chalom (Dean–North America, IISHJ), Joshua Berg (Operations Manager, IISHJ), Ellen Shepard, Terry Waslow, Marla Davishoff

New Program Is Training Secular Humanistic Jewish Officiants

Farmington Hills, Michigan, September 2018: The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism (IISHJ) held its first class gathering for its newest program, the Officiant Program. The goal of the Officiant Program is to train and certify professionals to create and lead meaningful Secular Humanistic Jewish celebrations of the life cycle.

The inaugural class included Marla Davishoff and Ellen Shepard, both members of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in Lincolnshire, IL, and Terry Waslow, the Executive Director of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations.

The first seminar, Celebration of the Jewish Life Cycle, took place on July 25-27, 2018 at the Pivnick Center for Humanistic Judaism. It was a detailed study of Jewish ceremonies and observances surrounding major events of the life cycle, including weddings, celebration of life memorials, B’nai Mitzvah, baby welcoming, and more. Students also explored how to celebrate these events through a Humanistic, non-theistic approach to life, practical details of creating and organizing ceremonies, and how to best serve interfaith and intercultural families.

The seminar was taught by:

  • Rabbi Adam Chalom, Rabbi of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation near Chicago and Dean for North America, International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism
  • Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, Rabbi of The Birmingham Temple: Congregation for Humanistic Judaism
  • Rabbi Denise Handlarski, Rabbi of Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, Toronto
  • Rabbi Miriam Jerris, Rabbi of the Society for Humanistic Judaism and IISHJ Associate Professor of Professional Development
  • Rabbi Jodi Kornfeld, Rabbi of Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community near Chicago and President of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis

“The discussion about the origin of traditions for each of the ceremonies was fascinating and valuable and provided a good support for the readings. I was glad to know what clients might be asking for and why, and how we might respond to them with knowledge of both the history of the tradition and humanist alternatives.” – Ellen Shepard

Secular Humanistic Judaism and the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism

Secular Humanistic Judaism is a cultural Jewish identity lived through a human-focused non-theistic philosophy of life. Secular Humanistic Jews believe that Judaism is the evolving civilization of the Jewish people, created, lived and recreated in response to the needs and beliefs of each generation. The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism is the intellectual and educational arm of the Secular Humanistic Jewish Movement. The Institute presents and promotes the philosophy of Secular Humanistic Judaism by exploring Jewish cultural identity through academic inquiry and by training Leaders and Rabbis of the movement in North America and in Israel. Information about the Institute and its programs is available at its website,, or by contacting or 847-777-6907.

For more information, contact, Rabbi Adam Chalom,, 847-602-4500.

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