A selection from the foreword


A selection from the foreword by Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok

. . . .Sherwin is an extremely significant figure in the history of Judaism in America–more important perhaps than any of us yet realize. For many today, belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent deity has become an impossibility. Yet there is still a fascinatio with and a hunger for religious solutions. You only have to look round a twenty- f|rst-century book shop. There are endless sections on such recondite subjects as crystal therapies for interior designers, zodiacal chart-making for credulous draftsmen, kabbalistic runes for B-list filmstars, and dreary self- help books for the emotionally retarded and terminally self-indulgent. It is a sorry picture.

Among all this, Sherwin stands as a beacon of rational intelligence. As he himself has written, what he offers is sanity in a crazy world. His whole life has been dedicated to the foundation and establishment of a new movement, Secular Humanistic Judaism. His ideas are firmly grounded in the proud tradition of Eastern European Jewish scholarship, but he is completely open to the ideas, influences, and discoveries of the modern world. Literally nothing is sacred.

To establish the new movement, Sherwin initially founded the famous Birmingham Temple in Detroit. Then, over the years, he has created other institutions, and the movement has spread. Today, through his’energy and dedication, there are congregations in most sizeable cities in the United States, and the word has reached Europe and Israel as well. A new generation of rabbis has been recruited, trained with utmost vigor, and ordained. Sherwin has ensured that Secular Humanistic Judaism will survive him. It is more than Rabbi Wine’s One-Man-Band. It is a fully formed branch of American Judaism, along with the Orthodox, the Conservative, the Reconstructionist, and the Reform.

This volume is an attempt to chart Sherwin’s achievements. It is written by his friends and his disciples, by people who have worked with him, by people who care about him, and by people whose lives he has touched. It is hoped that its publication will encourage more interested students to learn more about Humanistic Judaism, but that is not its prime purpose. Ultimately it has been produced to give Sherwin pleasure, to express our admiration, and, at the moment of his retirement, to say thank you.