I was saddened by the news that Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of Humanistic Judaism, was killed Saturday while on vacation in Morocco. My thoughts go out to Rabbi Wine, his family and friends, and all that love him.
He was a pioneer and an open, progressive thinker, in an otherwise often stagnant and dated religious world. Rabbi Wine started the first humanistic congregation here in Detroit, in 1963. Today there are over 40,000 members in the world wide movement.
Rabbi Wine helped to establish the Society for Humanistic Judaism and also the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews. At the time of his death, he wast the Dean of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in North America. He was a co-founder of Americans for Religious Liberty, an advocacy organization that promotes separation of religion and government. In addition, Rabbi Wine has written several books such as "Humanistic Judaism," "Judaism Beyond God" and "Staying Sane in a Crazy World." It is reported that he was in Morocco this summer writing a book about living a meaningful, moral life without depending on faith for guidance.
Rabbi Wine lived his Judaism as a testimony to human dignity. His movement did not judge others or dismiss them according to the laws of the Torah, the Bible, the Koran and so on.
"...The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being. " He was not anti this nor that or him nor her, Rabbi Wine recognized importantly that we are all one of the same humanity.
He also believed that "...We possess the power and responsibility to shape our own lives independent of supernatural authority." Essentially, that whatever higher power there may or may not be, it is not personal, is not doling out good luck or tragedies. We aren't being judged, no heavenly score card is lying around. This means on the flip side, that as humans we are responsible for making ourselves, our society, the world that we live in the best that we possibly can. We need to be moral and ethical for the sake of humanity alone and not because a text told us to.
I was going to end this post with a bit about why (other than the obvious) I am saddened by Rabbi Wine's passing. I think though, I will just share with you part of an e-mail that I sent to my brother-in-law Daniel today. I think it sums things up for me quite well:
" I'm so sad about Rabbi Wine's passing. Of course I'm sad for Rabbi Wine, his family and friends. For me though, it's seeing a progressive Jewish thinker, someone who dared to think and speak outside of the box, die. I know that many didn't agree with his movement or identify with it, but still, there is merit in his work, his drive and questioning of the state of Judaism. Questioning of God and humanity for that matter! Without questioning, there is no looking for answers and without that search, there is no change, only stagnation, frustration and limitations. I feel like God is an impersonal God (or is just us as a whole) and therefore, if anywhere in Judaism, feel most at home with "those hippie humanists." It's just sad that his life was cut short and I hope that the movement lives on. I appreciate how the far liberal and progressive side of Judaism can try to balance and check or at the very least challenge the more conservative movements. To me, it is a very scary world with out this duality."
You will be missed Rabbi Wine.