With 250 TV channels, the World Wide Web, and centuries of human culture to choose from, how can a Humanistic Jewish High Holidays compete? Challenging questions can reveal our deepest commitments.
Labels divide people – different ethnicities, religions, nationalities, even sports allegiances can be lethal. An infant from anywhere in the world can grow up fluent in any other language and culture, so why should we be attached to the accident of our birth? Yet there are limits to choosing one’s own identity. In the quest for balance, how should we negotiate our individuality with our group identities?
With rising anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East, never-ending and heart-rending conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, militant Orthodoxy fighting modernity on one side and ongoing Jewish integration into Western Culture on the other, who would be crazy enough to want to be Jewish? And yet we do, and we are. The truth is that, with all of its challenges, being Jewish adds deep meaning to our lives.
“Who Am I?” Rosh Hashana Children’s Service, September 25, 2014 2:00 PM
There are many pieces to every human being – our family, our friends, what we enjoy, and the kind of person we want to be. What do we inherit, and what can we choose for ourselves?
The religious approach to life has been around for a long time. Believing that people, and only people, have conscious power to improve the world is a much more recent innovation, even if its evolutionary ancestors first appeared centuries ago. But people do terrible things, and some fight modernity and progress with all their might. Is a Humanistic approach to life, and to Judaism, a path to despair or to hope?
Without cosmic judgment, Yom Kippur becomes an internal experience – self-judgment and self-forgiveness. In moderation, both are healthy and important, but only if they lead to changed behavior in the future. In the negotiation between individual self-fulfillment and communal responsibility lies the dignity of proving ourselves to be good people, if we can live up to our own standards.
“What’s Important?” Yom Kippur Children’s Service, October 4, 2014 2:00 PM
The older we become, the more choices we have. We need to learn how to choose: what will make us happy? What will bring happiness to the people we love?
“Why Remember?” Yom Kippur Memorial & Conclusion, October 4, 2014 3:30 PM
Would life be easier alone, with no entanglements or risks? Would we be happier if our happiness were self-determined, not dependent on the emotions and behavior of others? Or is the pain of relationship and separation, love and loss, worthwhile for the joy we experience? And can experiencing life together help us to appreciate the beauty of a life well-lived?