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Farmington Hills, MI, April 28, 2013 — As Humanistic Jews, we, too, experienced the tragedy of the Boston marathon bombing and wanted to join with our communities in expressing our sympathy and in healing. Yet, despite repeated requests from the Boston Humanist community led by Humanistic Rabbi Greg Epstein, the Harvard Humanist Chaplain, Humanists were denied even one seat at the community-wide Interfaith Healing Service.
The SHJ has joined with other Humanist and secular organizations in efforts to ensure that Humanists are included in any such future community-wide events. SHJ Ethical Concerns Committee co-chair Stephanie Blum explains, “As Humanistic Jews, we stand behind Greg Epstein, who sought to be included in the community-wide memorial service for the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Despite repeated requests, Humanists were denied representation at this public interfaith memorial service, which was attended by President Barack Obama and Governor Deval Patrick and thus took on a quasi-official cast. As Humanists, we are asking neither that the name of such an event be changed nor that the agenda be significantly modified; we are simply asking to be included so we can grieve together as a community. Inclusion, not exclusion, should be a unifying principle behind community-wide memorial services, especially those attended by high level government officials.”
At the request of the American Humanist Association, the SHJ sent a letter explaining that when such tragedies occur, all members of the community should be included in “community-wide” events. We urged everyone to join this effort by sending a letters expressing your belief that, as Humanists, we, too, are part of the community and should be included in community-wide events. These letters were delivered to the organizers of the Boston Interfaith Healing Service.
SHJ also joined Greg Epstein’s petition drive asking that Governor Patrick and Melissa Rogers, who is Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, meet with representatives of the Humanist and nontheistic community to discuss how to ensure that future gatherings like the Interfaith Healing Service held following the Boston Marathon bombing include all Americans. Epstein and Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, have issued a statement thanking all those who joined this effort for their support. The statement reads in part, “As a community we came together to work for the inclusion of nontheists in events—such as the Interfaith Healing Service held in Boston last month — that also included civic and broad community participation. Together we started an important national conversation that we hope will begin to effect change. … We will continue to work toward inclusion in other ways.”
The Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) is the national umbrella organization for Humanistic congregations in North America. The SHJ offers a nontheistic alternative within Judaism. Embracing a human-centered philosophy of life that combines the celebration of Jewish culture and identity with an adherence to humanistic values and ideas, the Society creates an inclusive, nurturing environment for families with children and empty nesters, pre-schoolers and teens, university students, young adults and seniors, single parents, intercultural families, and the GLBTQ community. Providing a meaningful Jewish alternative for cultural Jews, Humanistic Judaism embraces the belief in the human capacity to create a better world rather than in reliance on a supernatural power or an omniscient deity. Humanistic Jews value their Jewish identity and the aspects of Jewish culture that offer a genuine expression of their contemporary way of life.