Humanism is the perspective that humans are the starting point for all ethical, moral and intellectual inquiry. Despite a starting point of this type, a dominant assumption about humanism in our contemporary culture(s) seems to suggest that a particular form of humanism is the only version of humanism to be explored – and that is secular humanism.
Indeed, the vast majority of the well-known humanist organizations in Canada and around the world assert an overtly secular humanist identity. In many cases, these organizations strive to forge a secular humanist identity that eliminates any and all traces of organized religion (and much of the culture that goes with it) from the mix. While that may be just the recipe for fulfillment that some people need, for others – it may not be quite right.
And this is where the universal nature of humanism’s starting point – an ethical, moral and intellectual centred on humans – draws a tremendous strength and versatility. It allows for organizations like Oranyu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism to firmly assert that “you can choose both.“
Oranyu was founded in 1969 as the Secular Jewish Association by a group of families. Oraynu is based on the cultural and philosophical ideals of the Jewish Enlightenment, known as the Berlin Haskalah movement which began in Berlin in the late 1700s . The underlying principles of the Haskalah movement were to preserve Jewish culture while striving for integration with the dominant or surrounding societies.
In this modern iteration of these principles, Oraynu provides all the services required of a Jewish congregation within a secular humanist perspective.
For Oranyu, “The foundation of ethics is not God. The foundation of ethics is human dignity, human survival and human happiness. Ethical behavior consists of relationships between people. Some people behave well without believing in God and some people who believe in God do not behave ethically. We celebrate our Jewish identity. We use poetry and prose to express that connection – to encourage reflection and meditation. We sing Jewish songs in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. We create our own liturgy which includes blessings for wine, challah, candlelighting, holidays, etc. As well, we sometimes adapt traditional materials to be consistent with humanistic Jewish philosophy.“
Here in the second decade of this twenty-first century, we have already experienced the emergence of altogether too many polarizing social, political and ideological events and situations and faced altogether too many over-inflated false dilemmas. Oranyu’s message, whether it is new or simply renewed, that “You can choose both” is perhaps one of the most necessary messages of this decade that any humanist organization might care to extend to the community.
The Oranyu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism is one of the many examples of Canada’s rich humanist heritage.
Citations, References And Other Reading
- Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://www.oraynu.org
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