A Humanistic Rosh Hashanah Round-Up

Rosh Hashanah starts at sundown on Wednesday this week. I’m likely to be occupied with other items this week (not the least of which is two days of continuing legal education in a facility that charges about $40/day for “real” WiFi) and thus won’t end up with an original, dedicated Rosh Hashanah post. Instead, I’ll provide links to materials from others in the Humanistic Jewish world (and some of my own), as I know this would be a helpful consolidation of resources for some of my readers who have looked for resources but sometimes find their searches coming up short.

Proviso: I know I won’t come close to getting everything; if I miss something you think is important, please let me know and I’ll edit the post if it’s appropriate.

First, if you find yourself near a community, I would encourage you by all means to look into attendance to see what a secular, cultural, and/or humanistic Jewish Rosh Hashanah celebration can be like. But be aware: you may not know there’s a community nearby, even if there is one! Please check the directories. The Society for Humanistic Judaism and the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations both have directories of affiliated groups–schools, congregations, fellowships, etc.–that offer secular and humanistic High Holidays experiences. As always, there’s more available in the larger established Jewish communities than in the “hinterlands” (see, e.g., Indianapolis!).

If you’re after books, dvds, and the like, check the SHJ’s site, the CSJO’s site, and the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism’s site for resources you can purchase, including holiday resource kits and Rabbi Sherwin Wine’s book, Celebration. Also, Rabbi Judith Seid’s God-Optional Judaism (available on Amazon, etc.) has a discussion of adapting the holidays for a cultural approach to Judaism. And don’t hesitate to look at books that give an honest appraisal of the history of how holidays have developed; Hayyim Schauss’s oldie-but-goodie The Jewish Festivals, and Art Waskow’s Seasons of Our Joy are good choices, though note that with Waskow his Jewish Renewal-centered approach shines through quite often.

Looking for quick or cost-free fixes? The SHJ has a nice article that talks about the tradition and the Secular Humanistic Jewish take on Rosh Hashanah. Especially helpful are the list of themes at the end of the article.

The SHJ YouTube channel also has excellent video presentations. Rabbi Jeffrey Falick (rabbi at The Birmingham Temple and author of The Atheist Rabbi blog) has a Rosh Hashanah video on the channel; Rabbi Falick also has blog posts that come up under a search for Rosh Hashanah on his site. Rabbi Miriam Jerris (rabbi for SHJ as a whole) is in two videos. One is about Rosh Hashanah as cultural experience.  The other features discussions with Rabbis Peter Schweitzer (rabbi at the SHJ-affiliated City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in New York) and Frank Tamburello about how humanistic and secular Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah. (Rabbi Schweitzer also has a video on the City Congregation site about the High Holidays.)

Rabbi Adam Chalom of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in Illinois regularly posts the text of his Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur sermons on his blog, Shalom from Rabbi Chalom. Last years’ sermons can also be downloaded from Kol Hadash’s podcast stream, which is available from the congregation’s website and on iTunes. The themes for this year’s sermons have already been posted.

Machar, the SHJ-affiliated synagogue in the Washington, D.C., area, has its Rosh Hashanah liturgy from 2011 online. The post for this year’s events has a brief discussion of the celebration of the holiday at Machar.

Boston University’s BU Today has an article on secular observances of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture has a secular Rosh Hashanah liturgy on its site.

Finally, a couple of things I’ve written, so that I can find them all in one place!

I’ll try to keep this list updated and reposted each year. If we don’t interact before the holidays roll around, L’shanah tovah u’metukah – may you have a good and sweet new year!

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