Contemporary Humanistic Judaism Beliefs, Values, Practices

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  • Adam Chalom (editor)
  • Jodi Kornfeld (editor)
  • Jeremy Kridel (editor)
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About the Book

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January 2025

Opening up multidimensional ideas, values, and practices of Humanistic Judaism to Jews of all backgrounds and beliefs, Contemporary Humanistic Judaism collects the movement’s most important texts for the first time and answers the oft-raised question, “How can you be Jewish and celebrate Judaism if you don’t believe in God?” with new vision.

Part 1 (“Beliefs and Ethics”) examines core positive beliefs—in human agency, social progress, ethics without supernatural authority, sources of natural transcendence, and Humanistic Jews’ own authority to remake their traditional Jewish inheritance on their own terms “beyond God.” Part 2 (“Identity”) discusses how Humanistic Judaism empowers individuals to self-define as Jews, respects people’s decisions to marry whom they love, and navigates the Israel-Diaspora relationship. Part 3 (“Culture”) describes how the many worlds of Jewish cultural experience—art, music, food, language, heirlooms—ground Jewishness and enable endless exploration. Part 4 (“Jewish Life”) applies humanist philosophy to lived Jewish experience: reimagined creative education (where students choose passages meaningful to them for their bar, bat, or b mitzvah [gender-neutral] celebrations), liturgy, life cycle, and holiday celebrations (where Hanukkah emphasizes the religious freedom to believe as one chooses).

Jewish seekers, educators, and scholars alike will come to appreciate the unique ideologies and lived expressions of Humanistic Judaism.


“Finally—a book that speaks wisely and powerfully to the secular Jew who seeks Jewish connection and meaning without traditional God-worship. Contemporary Humanistic Judaism is the crucial primer for all those who want to understand the foundational ideas of Humanistic Judaism and find the path to a vibrant Jewish life expressed through liturgy, ritual, education, celebration, and yes, the transcendent.”—Abigail Pogrebin, author of My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew
Contemporary Humanistic Judaism is a must-read, especially for anyone who ever felt like a ‘bad Jew’ for not believing in God, for intermarrying, or for otherwise not conforming to traditional movements’ constructions of Jewish identity.”—Keren R. McGinity, author of Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America
“Through essays, case studies, liturgy, cultural offerings, and more, this important collection evocatively makes the case for deeply engaged, deeply principled, deeply intentional Jewish living that does not center God. Contemporary Humanistic Judaism demonstrates that, as ever, Humanistic Judaism raises essential questions about contemporary Judaism and offers piquant responses.”—Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president and CEO of Reconstructing Judaism
“I love it! Contemporary Humanistic Judaism is comprehensive, engaging, and compelling. I plan to assign it to my students.”—Phil Zuckerman, associate dean of Pitzer College
“Magnificent! The clearest and most engaging volume on the history and meaning of Humanistic Judaism ever written.”—Rabbi Evan Moffic, author of The Happiness Prayer: Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today
“This is an important anthology that ought to be widely read and studied. It is essential to any college or adult ed course addressing the complicated map of current liberal Judaisms.”—Rabbi Edmond Weiss, coauthor of Making Arguments: Reason in Context
“Humanistic Judaism’s contributions to the broader landscape of Jewish life are too often overlooked. Contemporary Humanistic Judaism will expand and challenge many traditionalist readers’ sense of what Judaism is and has been—while simultaneously offering much-needed affirmation to readers with less-traditionalist instincts.”—Lex Rofeberg, senior Jewish educator of Judaism Unbound

Adam Chalom

Adam Chalom is dean for North America of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism and rabbi of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in suburban Chicago.

Jodi Kornfeld

Jodi Kornfeld is rabbi of Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community in suburban Chicago and past president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis.

Jeremy Kridel

Jeremy Kridel is rabbi and Jewish Cultural School director of Machar, the Secular Humanistic Jewish Congregation of Greater Washington, in DC.

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