I was thrilled to learn of the recent founding of the Princeton University Society of Humanists (On the Campus, May 16) as a place for Princetonians to find support and camaraderie from others with religious ideals, but without theistic belief. It’s about time!
When I matriculated, we were asked to indicate our religion, and we faced compulsory biweekly chapel (or other congregational attendance) freshman year. Early on, the chaplains visited our dorm rooms to gather their flocks. Hillel’s non-judgmental rabbi, Irving M. Levey, greeted me by quipping: “I’ve always wanted to meet an agnostic Jew.”
With a Jewish background, but no feeling of faith, I fulfilled my frosh religious obligation mostly by attending Friday-night Hillel services. I stuck with Hillel mostly for social considerations, became friends with Rabbi Levey, and junior year was elected chairman of the Hillel cabinet.
Flash ahead to 2005. Wife Toni and I retired to Sarasota, where we found our perfect match right in the Bible Belt, at the Sarasota Congregation for Humanistic Judaism. This international movement had been established in Detroit in 1963 by Reform Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine to provide a home for humanistic, secular, and cultural Jews.
Our congregation meets biweekly to hold brief Shabbat and/or holiday services that feature visiting speakers on Jewish historical and/or socially relevant topics. One doesn’t have to profess atheism or even agnosticism to join, but one should feel that human beings are responsible for their own actions, not “God’s” word promulgated through scripture, to appreciate our gatherings.
I’m glad to see a nontheological alternative to Princeton’s many campus religious organizations. Who knows, maybe the Center for Jewish Life will add Humanistic Judaism to its Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist orientations.