Obituary for Sherwin Wine


JTA published a story today on the death of Sherwin Wine, the founder of Humanistic Judaism.

In many ways, Wine injected an honesty into the practice of Judaism that had been missing prior to his arrival. While many Jews don’t believe in God (certainly more than believe in the Torah as the word of God), the vast majority of affiliated Jews worship at synagogue services infused with God-language. Wine, a Reform rabbi by training and an atheist by inclination, felt reciting such prayers was intellectually dishonest. So he founded an entire movement of Judaism, one that celebrates Jewish traditions but removes mention of a deity.

Despite its growing popularity in Israel, it has never caught on in the States, one of the few countries in the developed world where not practicing a religion is more of a social stigma than practicing one. The funny thing is, even the most Orthodox of the Orthodox will tell you that believing in God is incidental to being Jewish; either you’re born Jewish or convert under the proper auspices, or you’re not Jewish. It doesn’t matter what you believe in.

On a totally unrelated note, I found this interesting piece in The New York Sun about Ataturk’s Jewish roots. Ataturk was the founder of modern Turkey, a fierce secularist and nationalist who banned any public display of the Muslim faith. As interesting as the search for his father’s Jewish roots is as a detective story, I feel the entire article is undermined by the author’s disdain for the recently elected Islamic Justice and Development Party.

The Islamic Justice and Development Party is the only functioning, democratic moderate Islamic political organization in the Middle East, as far as I know. To say that “The Islamic counterrevolution has won the day in Turkey” is an incredible insult to a party that has been remarkably focused on economic growth, bureaucratic reform and compromise with the old-line secular establishment. If a party anything remotely like the IJDP achieved popularity in any of the Middle East hotspots like Iraq, Iran, Syria or Lebanon, we’d be jumping for joy.

The IJDP’s electoral victory isn’t a strictly intermarriage-related issue, but I think it’s important for non-Jews in relationships with Jews to see that all Jews aren’t instinctively hostile to any public expression of Islam.

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