Many varieties of secular Jewish identity and community emerged in the late 19th century, from Socialist Yiddishists to Zionism. Humanistic Judaism as a cultural Jewish identity celebrated through Humanistic philosophy in a congregational setting first appeared in 1964 at The Birmingham Temple, founded in 1963 suburban Detroit by eight families and Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, a Reform Rabbi with advanced graduate study in philosophy. The uproar (and expressions of support) from across the Jewish world in response to their gradual liturgical, philosophical and educational changes eventually led to a worldwide movement called Secular Humanistic Judaism. Today there are Secular and Humanistic Jewish communities, as well as trained and certified Leaders and rabbis, in several major metropolitan areas in North America. There are also thousands of people who have been raised in these communities, baby-named or bar/bat mitzvahed or married by these Leaders and rabbis, and influenced by the celebrations, educational programs and public presence of this movement.
Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ)
The Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) was founded in 1969 by congregations in Michigan, Illinois, and Connecticut, and today SHJ connects some 30 congregations and communities in North America. SHJ organizes and supports individuals and communities in celebrating Jewish identity and culture consistent with a humanistic philosophy of life, as well as providing a worldwide voice for its members. Based on its Core Principles, SHJ develops curricular and celebration materials, publishes its journal Humanistic Judaism and other works, holds teen/young adult conclaves and promotes the message of the movement.
Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations (CSJO)
The Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations (CSJO) was founded in the early 1970s as the Congress of Secular Jewish Education, a network of schools and communities that largely emerged from the Yiddish Socialist Left in the United States and Canada. CSJO’s emphasis on progressive social action, secular Yiddishkeit (Jewishness) and Jewish history and culture are core elements of its activities. In addition to its publications and community development work, CSJO holds an annual conference for adults and teens each Memorial Day Weekend in various cities in North America.
From the beginning, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism sought connections in the wider Jewish world, especially in Israel. In 2004, Rabbi Sivan Malkin Maas, the first Israeli rabbi ordained by IISHJ, founded Tmura-IISHJ: the Institute for Training Secular Humanistic Rabbis and Jewish Leadership in Israel. Through training rabbis and leaders, public programs, media advocacy and publications, Tmura-IISHJ is becoming a leading voice for Secular Humanistic Judaism in the Jewish state. Tmura-IISHJ is actively supported by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism.
International Federation for Secular and Humanistic Judaism
The International Federation for Secular and Humanistic Judaism (IFSHJ) was the successor organization to the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews (founded 1986). Leading figures in the IFSHJ have included Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, founder of Humanistic Judaism in North America; Yair Tsaban, former Minister of Immigration and Absorption in Israel; Albert Memmi, well-known French writer and professor of sociology at the University of Paris; and Yehuda Bauer, noted historian and Holocaust scholar at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism was an affiliate of the IFSHJ.
Leadership Conference of Secular and Humanistic Jews
In 1982, the Leadership Conference of Secular and Humanistic Jews was established to facilitate communication and cooperation among leaders in Secular and Humanistic Jewish organizations, as well as to certify and establish ethical standards and professional guidelines for leaders in the movement. New leaders/madrikhim-ot/vegvayzers and educators are trained in the Leadership Program of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism and certified by IISHJ. Leaders are ordained Secular Humanistic Jewish clergy, able to officiate Jewish, Humanistic or intercultural weddings or other significant lifecycle observances, create and conduct Secular and Humanistic Jewish festival services and observances, teach adults and children, and speak about Jewish topics or about Secular Humanistic Judaism at public events.
Association of Humanistic Rabbis
The Association of Humanistic Rabbis (AHR) was founded in 1967 by rabbis committed to the values of Humanistic Judaism, a human-centered approach to Jewish life. The AHR fosters these values and develops the on-going learning, fellowship and welfare of its members. Rabbis who have received ordination from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in North America and secular rabbis ordained by T’mura, the Institute’s seminary in Israel, along with students matriculating in these programs, are automatically eligible for membership in AHR. Rabbis who were ordained at other seminaries and who embrace the values of the AHR may also be considered for membership.