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NEWS: Society for Humanistic Judaism
Supports Japan/Pacific Disaster Relief

Farmington Hills, MI, March 11, 2011 — The Society for Humanistic Judaism issued recommendations today urging its congregations, members, and adherents, to support Japan/Pacific disaster relief, through donations to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) or other agencies providing relief. The JDC is already the beneficiary of efforts by Humanistic Jewish congregations who support its Crop Walk to sponsor food donations for the needy and have supported its relief efforts in Haiti.  Many in the movement were already responding to the crisis with donations, and this recommendation gives impetus for wider and greater support.

We have all been stunned by the devastation wreaked by the earthquake and tsunami, which struck Japan and crossed the Pacific last night. Although details are continuing to emerge, it is clear that there has been significant damage and loss of life. “Our sympathies go out to the families who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami,” said Rabbi Miriam Jerris. “As fellow human beings and as Humanistic Jews, our hearts and minds are engaged in seeking ways to support the massive relief efforts necessary.”

Humanistic congregations embrace a human-centered philosophy that celebrates Jewish culture and identity. “Our belief is in the human capacity to create a better world rather than in reliance on a supernatural power or an omniscient deity,” said Bonnie Cousens, Executive Director of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. “We believe in the importance of mitzvot (good deeds) to achieve that end. The performance of acts of tzedakah (charity), a core value of Judaism, are intrinsic to a full expression of Humanistic Judaism.”

The Society for Humanistic Judaism is the national umbrella organization for Humanistic congregations in North America. Humanistic Jews value their Jewish identity and the aspects of Jewish culture that offer a genuine expression of their contemporary way of life. There are currently more than 30 congregations in the United States and Canada affiliated with this growing movement. Forty-nine percent of the United States 5.5 million Jews say that their outlook is secular and forty-eight percent do not belong to a synagogue or other Jewish organization according to the American Jewish Identification Survey undertaken by professional statisticians under the auspices of the Center for Jewish Studies at the City University of New York. The Society helps to organize local congregations and havurot, creates and disseminates celebrational and educational materials, provides national programs, including programs for teens and young adults, and serves the needs of individual members who do not live near an existing Humanistic congregation.

The JDC is collecting funds for relief efforts and has reached out to the Japanese Government to offer its expertise in earthquake and tsunami-related response. JDC acquired substantial experience in post-tsunami and earthquake recovery through its relief and reconstruction projects in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Maldives and India following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004. JDC is now conducting an up-to-the-minute assessment of the situation in Japan and the Pacific Rim and has activated its network of partners to determine critical, immediate needs of the hardest-hit areas.

For more information, contact the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

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