Marriage in Humanistic Judaism reflects our humanistic philosophy. A Humanistic Jewish marriage stresses equality, friendship, loyalty, honesty, and individual growth. As Humanistic Jews, we support the premise that equal partnerships nurture and enhance the freedom of individuals, that the security of a strong partnership strengthens the individual, that intimacy through partnership enhances our lives, and that behavior rather than intent is the measure of marital quality.
As Humanistic Jews, we recognize that in the modern world the majority of those in the Jewish community are marrying individuals from different or multiple religious traditions. These unions are often referred to as intercultural marriage by Humanistic Jews. Humanistic Jewish ceremonies respect the differing backgrounds and culture of each partner. Rituals or symbols from both family backgrounds may be used provided they have meaning and relevance and are explained. Humanistic clergy uses only non-theistic language, while co-officiants are asked to used theistic language common to both traditions represented. This includes the celebration of marriages where each partner comes from a different religious or cultural background and marriages between couples of the same gender. There is both a right and obligation for Secular Humanistic Jewish leaders to celebrate, officiate, or co-officiate marriages for couples from mixed heritage traditions who do not convert. Our Humanistic Jewish clergy has adopted positions on intermarriage and co-officiation.
Humanistic Judaism has always supported the right of individuals to decide for themselves how to live, what to believe, and whom to marry. We recognize the right of men and women to freely choose their marriage partners. Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, Humanistic Jewish clergy are thrilled to continue offering their services to all those who choose to marry. The Society for Humanistic Judaism took a position on marriage equality for same-gender couples in 2004.
Humanistic Jewish wedding ceremonies are tailored to the needs of the couple. Such ceremonies reflect both our Humanistic philosophy of life and our connection to our Jewish culture. They promote the dignity and equality of each partner. Parents and fathers do not “give away” their daughters. Ceremonies reflect the family culture and traditions of both partners.
Humanistic Jewish weddings attempt to transcend the ordinary and meet the deep emotional needs of partners and participants. The focus of a Humanistic Jewish ceremony is the people. The ceremony validates family life by finding ways to include family members, especially children from prior relationships. The wedding ceremony can stress the responsibility of the couple to make their marriage work and the value that behavior rather than symbols serve to validate a good marriage. Officiants serve the function of a witness to an act agreed to by two consenting adults.
Humanistic Jewish weddings include symbols and traditions from Jewish wedding ceremonies that have value and meaning to the couple. These can include, but are not limited to, a huppa (canopy), a Humanistic Jewish ketuba (marriage contract), use of the Hebrew language, a ring exchange, drinking from a cup of wine, seven Humanistic blessings, and breaking of a glass (often by each partner).
There are many resources in the SHJ Store Life Cycle section that can help you in creating Humanistic Jewish ceremonies to mark the cycle of life. SHJ Rabbi Miriam Jerris may be able to assist you in connecting with resources and an officiant to meet your needs. When you write to Rabbi Jerris, please include your name, address, and phone number.
Humanistic Jews do not require a rabbinic signature or statement when a marriage ends. It is an emotional and legal decision that does not require ceremonial involvement on the part of our rabbis and leaders. Our rabbis and leaders provide the appropriate compassionate support for those experiencing disruption of their family life. Humanistic Jews continue to welcome divorced individuals as part of the community and congregation.
Some members have requested divorce ceremonies and our rabbis and ceremonial leaders have worked with individuals to create ceremonies that will assist in providing closure and healing.