The many kinds of Jews

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the Jewish obsession with Israel. There is an unhealthy ability to defend the worst crimes of the Jewish state simply because many Jews deny they could have happened and then they create an Israel in their minds, a pure state that can really do no wrong. Delusion is another term for this. These people are seemingly incapable of getting past their ethnically-based prejudice.

Another side of Judaism, largely flourishing in the US, is how the religion is shifting in the modern age. A good friend now living in New York wrote to me today saying that during the upcoming Passover he would visit The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism. What does this mean? Rabbi Peter Schweitzer from the congregation explained in 2003 about his beliefs. New York magazine from 2008:

On a recent chilly Friday night, a few dozen members of the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism were gathered downstairs at the Village Community School on West 10th Street for Shabbat. For them, this is a monthly ritual that includes lighting candles and singing Jewish songs that have been carefully excised of a deity. “Where is my light?” asks the song “Ayfo Oree.” “My light is in me.” According to the congregation’s leader, the humanist rabbi Peter Schweitzer, who wrote much of the secular Shabbat service, as well as the lyrics and verse for the congregation’s life-cycle events like weddings, funerals, and bar and bat mitzvahs, Judaism is mostly a culture—religion is just one component. So he simply takes a red pen to the God parts. “We offer a different door in,” says Schweitzer. “One that doesn’t ask you to compromise your lack of beliefs.”


Schweitzer sees Humanistic Judaism as an obvious extension of a North American Jewry that is already highly secular—one that for decades has made “the deli a more significant cultural force than the synagogue.” Many secular Jews continue to feel a strong connection to their cultural roots. “Jews need a place to go, especially during high holidays, where they don’t have to check reason at the door,” he says. “This is honest religion. A real gift.”

Interestingly, according to the JTA, “Humanistic Judaism is a minor presence in Jewish life. Though sometimes called the fifth denomination of American Judaism, the main locus of growth is in Israel.”

The questions remain, however. Do these more liberal beliefs affect the moral compass of Jews when considering Israel? Do they remain silent over a war in, say, Gaza?

How compassionate and realistic are they? The only way to judge even the most liberal of Jewish people is how they respond to a situation such as the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Are they pained? Are they silent? How do their ideas about secular Judaism translate into understanding Palestinian suffering, Zionist oppression and war crimes?

It matters.

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