What We Believe

abolishchildslaverySecular Jewishness

The Sholem Community stresses the historic, cultural, and ethical aspects of our Jewishness. We view our Jewish identity as one that is relevant to contemporary life and committed to justice, peace, and community responsibility.

Secular Jewishness has a long and proud history.  We trace our roots to the  Prophets—who opposed priestly rituals and social injustice … to the rationalism of Baruch Spinoza and to the thinkers of the Jewish Enlightenment—who gave rise to the first secular Jewish organizations which arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those organizations gave birth to the great Jewish social enterprises of our century: Zionism, communal organizations, and the Jewish labor/socialist movements.  Most of the core of Jewish culture in Yiddish, English, and even in modern Hebrew stems from Jewish secularists. So, too, does the overwhelming bulk of Jewish humor, folklore and folk songs.

The ethical value system of Secular Jewishness derives from roots which stress the principles of social and personal justice and the progressive, humanistic concepts in contemporary democratic thought. In concrete terms, we are proud of the roles that Secular Jews have played and continue to play in such progressive causes as the labor, peace, and civil rights movements.

Sholem Vision Statement

The Sholem Community is a progressive, welcoming, multi-generational organization that furthers secular Jewish identity by providing educational and cultural programs, as well as holiday and life-cycle observances.

Sholem Mission Statement

The Sholem Community is a Secular Jewish educational, cultural, and social organization for adults and children. Drawing inspiration from the history, culture, and values of the Jews as a people, we maintain a Jewish identity through our educational programs, by providing observances of Jewish holidays, and by offering life-cycle events and celebrations. Our Sunday school teaches evidence-based Jewish history and a humanistic approach to ethical behavior. We promote progressive values, and we encourage our members to participate in activities that advance peace, social, and economic justice. Sholem welcomes and celebrates the wide diversity of its members, including single parents and intercultural families, regardless of sexual orientation, cultural, or faith backgrounds.

Torah

As a secular organization, we view the Torah as an important literary and societal work rather than a sacred text. Sholem School students study the Torah critically. Adult seminars often cover aspects of Torah study. We regard classical Jewish texts such as the Bible and the Talmud as part of a vast heritage of Jewish literature that offers a wealth of insight into humanity.

We approach the Torah as we might any other significant work: When was it written and why? Who wrote it? Is it accurate? Why are there inconsistencies? What does it tell us about history?

The Torah was written over a long period of time for a variety of reasons. While it contains many fascinating characters, lessons, and legends, Secular Jews view it critically, taking issue with many of its laws and teachings – particularly those which are inconsistent with our modern sense of justice, ethics, condone slavery, or are misogynistic, anti-gay, or contemptuous of non-Jews.

Credo for a Secular Bar/BasMitsve

[Spanish version] [Yiddish version]

I am I.

I am a human being.

Nothing that touches other human beings is strange or foreign to me. All women and men are my sisters and brothers.

I am an American.

The dreams of all the millions, native and immigrant, who sweated, struggled and died for their dreams—all this is my heritage. The dreams are not yet fulfilled. Therefore, my heritage imposes my responsibility to carry on the struggle for the dream.

I am a Jew.

My roots are deep in the millennia that formed my people’s culture. My people is not chosen: it is unique, as every people is unique. The freedom-dream of Moses is my heritage, and the picket-lines at the sweatshops. I am a descendant of the Prophets, and of the uprisings in Europe’s ghettos and death-camps. My inheritance is in the songs of Hirsh Glik and Solomon, in the wisdom of Spinoza, Sholem Aleykhem and Perets, in the heroism of the Maccabees and Hannah Senesh. The beauty of my people’s dream finds voice in Yiddish, in Hebrew, in Ladino and in all the languages of the world – the dream of a better, more beautiful, more humane world.

I am a Jew.

Every person must have roots and these are mine.

I am I.

My eyes and hopes are on the future. My identity and my strength come from the past and from the present. From the heritage of all our yesterdays, I will help to build a just and peaceful tomorrow for all humanity.

Text: Hershl Hartman