SHJ Elects Larry Lawrence President



Farmington Hills, MI, May 2014 Larry Lawrence— Larry M. Lawrence, a resident of Washington, D.C., was installed on May 3 as the President of the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ). A graduate of Harvard University and Indiana University, Lawrence previously served as secretary and treasurer of Machar, the Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism, of which he is a long-term  member.


“I’ve found a secular/spiritual home in Humanistic Judaism,” says Lawrence. “When I discovered Machar in the 1990s, I found a place to give my daughter a Jewish education that I believe in – not one with features I had to explain away. And to my pleasant surprise, after Liz’s Bat Mitzvah in 1999, both she and I have continued to learn and grow with the movement of Humanistic Judaism.”


He continues: “Going back at least two generations, one side of my family was completely assimilated Jewish-Americans, without any Jewish congregational connections. I often wish I could talk with those grandparents about my experiences. I think they would have identified with what we’re doing today: forging new traditions.”


Lawrence said that his experience with Judaism before encountering Machar was that “it was a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ religion. I didn’t know you could be an active Jew and draw on our history, the Hebrew language, and our achievements over the millennia without believing in ‘the religion of our fathers.’ But with Humanistic Judaism, I don’t have to constantly filter what I believe from what is, for me, unbelievable. That’s why I feel it’s my home.”


Lawrence joined the SHJ Board of Directors four years ago. “I’m excited to work with community leaders from all over the continent in sustaining our members and getting the word out that there’s a real alternative to conventional varieties of Judaism,” he said.


“Larry has demonstrated a commitment to Humanistic Judaism for many years,” said Bonnie Cousens, SHJ Executive Director.  “He brings his organization experience, forward-thinking ideas, and dedication to our philosophy and practice to his new position as president of the Society. We look forward to him applying his skills and ideas to increase the visibility of Humanistic Judaism, while reaching out to the many people who share our beliefs but have not yet found this meaningful way to celebrate their Jewish identity.”


The Society for Humanistic Judaism is the central body for Humanistic Jewish congregations in North America. Embracing a human-centered philosophy of life that combines the celebration of Jewish culture and identity with an adherence to humanistic values and ideas, the Society creates an inclusive, nurturing environment for families with children and empty nesters, pre-schoolers and teens, university students, young adults and seniors, single parents, intermarried families, and the LGBTQ community. Humanistic Jews believe in the human capacity to create a better world rather than in reliance on a supernatural power or an omniscient deity, seeking solutions to human conflicts that respect the dignity, freedom, and self-esteem of every person.


This growing movement provides a community for many unaffiliated Jews who identify as cultural, secular, “just Jewish,” “not very religious” or Jewish atheists. 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.


For more information, contact the Society for Humanistic Judaism.