Category Archives: Jewish

Holocaust Memorial Day – Primo Levi the unbeliever

Primo Levi (1919-1987) was one of the most famous Survivors of the Holocaust. Levi, born in Turin, Italy and trained as a chemist, was arrested during the as a member of the anti-Fascist resistance and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. His experience in the death camp and his subsequent travels through Eastern Europe were the subject of powerful memoirs, fiction and poetry.

Although he came from families who had been observant Jews up to a generation or so before, they were no longer so and Levi was a life-long atheist. His only recollection of ever having any religious feelings was a brief period when he studied for his bar mitzvah, and tried to seek contact with God, “but when he sought that contact, he’d found nothing. Continue reading

International Day against Fascism and Anti-semitism

KristallnachtToday is the International Day against Fascism and Anti-semitism, an annual commemoration of the ‘Kristallnacht’ pogrom – a joint campaign of anti-fascist, anti-racist, human rights and Jewish organisations.

After World War II the Europeans decided that they would never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. Anti-fascist, anti-racist, human rights, Roma and Jewish organisations both inside and outside the UNITED network commemorate the Kristallnacht, which took place on 9 November 1938.

This partly state-organised pogrom against German Jews symbolises the beginning of the Holocaust. The commemoration has taken on a new meaning as we remember not only the victims from 1938, but also campaign against the rise of neo-nazism and racism in Europe today, and show support for the recent victims of racist and fascist attacks.

Silent, moderate majority – both religious and secular – must be silent no more

Tony BayfieldRabbi Tony Bayfield head of the Movement for Reform Judaism has written in a letter of support for charity Tolerance International UK that “the only salvation [from religious extemism] is for the silent majority, both religious and secular, to cease to be silent and for the moderates to demonstrate that moderation is not the same as acquiescence. ” Continue reading

Is fundamentalism a revolt against secularism?

Interviewed  in the current edition of Islamica, famed theologian Karen Armstrong is asked “What has made Fundamentalism, seemingly, so predominant today?” She answers 

“The militant piety that we call “fundamentalism” erupted in every single major world faith in the course of the twentieth century. There is fundamentalist Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, as well as fundamentalist Islam. Of the three monotheistic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam-Islam was the last to develop a fundamentalist strain during the 1960s. Fundamentalism represents a revolt against secular modern society, which separates religion and politics. Wherever a Western secularist government is established, a religious counterculturalist protest movement rises up alongside it in conscious rejection. Continue reading

Freud recognised “the poetry and promise in religion.”

Sigmund FreudMark Edmundson writes in the New York Times that while remaining an atheist, Sigmund Freud in his last completed book, ‘Moses and Monotheism’, “began to see the Jewish faith that he was born into as a source of cultural progress in the past and of personal inspiration in the present. Close to his own death, Freud starts to recognize the poetry and promise in religion.”

“He argues that Judaism helped free humanity from bondage to the immediate empirical world, opening up fresh possibilities for human thought and action. He also suggests that faith in God facilitated a turn toward the life within, helping to make a rich life of introspection possible.”

Humanist Jews stand by Muslim victims of hate crime

The arson-attacked houseIn Sarasota County, Florida, authorities are investigating an arson that destroyed a Muslim family’s home as a hate crime.

The blaze happened on July 6. The Sejfovics, who moved from Bosnia in 2001, were out of town on holday and returned to find their home completely destroyed and spray-painted with anti-Muslim graffiti.

Several agencies, including the FBI, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, are investigating the fire.

Members of the Unitarian-Universalist Church – the church that sponsored the family in 2001 – are standing by the family and vetting correspondence and phone calls. Others who have offfered theire suppport are a local rabbi and a Humanist Jewish Congregation, a couple of American-Islamist Groups, as well as many, many outraged individuals. Condolences and a reward have been offered; a fund is in the process of being set up.

Founder of Humanistic Judaism dies

Rabbi Sherwin WineRabbi Sherwin T. Wine, founder of Humanistic Judaism, tragically died on Saturday, July 21, 2007 while vacationing in Morocco. Returning from dinner Saturday evening in Essaouira, his taxicab was hit by another driver. Both Rabbi Wine and the taxi driver were killed instantly. His partner Richard McMains survived the collision and currently is hospitalized in stable condition.

Wine was born in Detroit, Michigan on January 25, 1928. He was a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Hebrew Union College. In 1963 he founded the Birmingham Temple in suburban Detroit, the first congregation of Humanistic Judaism.

In 1969 he helped establish the Society for Humanistic Judaism to serve as the national outreach vehicle for the humanistic movement. In 1986 he helped to create the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews, a worldwide association of national organization. At the time of his death, Wine was the Dean of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in North America.

The American Humanist Association selected him Humanist of the Year for 2003. The Humanist of the Year award was established in 1953 to recognize a person of national or international reputation who, through the application of humanist values, has made a significant contribution to the improvement of the human condition. As Humanist of the Year, Rabbi Wine joined such notables as Stephen Jay Gould, Betty Friedan, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Margaret Sanger, among others.

Rabbi Wine is the author of Humanistic Judaism, Judaism Beyond God, Celebration and Staying Sane In A Crazy World. In addition, he was a principal contributor to Judaism in a Secular Age: An Anthology of Secular Humanistic Jewish Thought.