What is Secular Humanistic Judaism?

Humanistic Judaism or Secular Humanistic Judaism is one of the six major branches of Judaism, along with Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Jewish Renewal. Humanistic Judaism is human centered, and fundamentally stresses the ability of people to shape their own lives independent of a supernatural. Humanistic Judaism has developed a human-focused liturgy for holiday and life cycle celebrations that allows Humanistic Jews to say what we mean and mean what we say.  Humanistic Judaism is celebrated in inclusive, welcoming communities.

Who are JCS members?

The Jewish Cultural Society’s membership is currently about 60 families. It includes physicians, musicians, architects, carpenters, lawyers, nurses, teachers, social workers, artists, small business owners, retailers, physicists, librarians, engineers, software and information technology developers, bar owners, university professors and retirees.

Membership is diverse: we come from orthodox, conservative, reform and secular backgrounds. There are mixed-ethnic and mixed religious marriages, inter-racial marriages, and many families with Asian-American and African-American children.  What we have in common is a secular outlook, Jewish identity, a desire for our children to construct their own Jewish identities, and enjoyment of a Jewish community.

What is a Madrikha?

Madrikha, which literally means leader in Hebrew, is our community leader or guide, cermonial officiant, philosophic Jewish counsler, eduator and spokesperson for a Secular Humanistic community. One of the prominent roles assumed by Madrikhim is that of officiants at life cycle events of community members, including baby namings, bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies, weddings, and funerals/memorials.

Do you have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah program?

YES! Our Bar and Bat Mitzvah programs are unique and inspiring. Families have often commented that these are the best bar/bat mitzvah’s they’ve ever seen! Here are the details:

Students take part in a two year preparation under the guidance of the Madrikha, parallel to 6th and 7th Sunday School grades. Requirements include 30 hours of individual community service and a group community service project, 4 projects on topics of the candidate’s choosing in the broad areas of family history, the group community service experience, Jewish identity, and Jewish culture. Ceremonies are individual or group, as the family chooses, and are designed by the participating families with the help of the Madrikha. They usually include a presentation of a project by the student, group singing, remarks by the parents, commemorative candle-lighting, and appreciations of each student by JCS staff members, ending in an oneg for guests and the congregation.

Our Bnai Mitzvah program is also open to families who have not been registered in our Sunday School but who are interested in their children learning about their Jewish identity and heritage.

I’m interested in learning more, but not quite ready for membership. Can I attend programs?

Absolutely! We welcome you to join us for any of our programs, including holiday celebrations and First Friday Shabbat. If you are interested in Sunday School, we encourage you to contact our Principal so we can arrange a time for you to visit a class. Please feel free to contact us for more information.