This is a guest post by Dr. Ulrich Chaim Hienzsch from Potsdam/Berlin Germany who shares his joy at adopting Humanistic Judaism three years ago. He illuminates why he became a Humanistic Jew.
Since I became a Humanistic Jew I feel free.I feel free, because my understanding of the world is no longer limited by belief in miracles and the supernatural, be it ‘God’ or the ‘Holy Spirit’. I feel free because my religion doesn’t force me to see the world around me in a blurry way, but to see it clearly and realistically. I know what I’m talking about because I was born into a Christian family. My father was a protestant priest, my mother was a teacher of protestant religion. When she read me the Bible, I often marveled at the strange occurrences. A dead man came back to life after he had been buried. Together with his father and the ‘Holy Spirit’, he promised the people of Jerusalem that the doors to a better world will open soon. In fact, they never did. Of course not. There was also often talk of sin, from which we will eventually be freed. I didn’t understand that, because newborn babies can’t have sinned yet. What were you trying to tell me? But the mechanisms of propaganda – repeat, repeat, claim, claim – are still working and still convince people, be it the ‘Holy Spirit’ or a ‘stolen election’. Even many fairy tales have been more credible. For me as a kid, all this sounded weird and made my brain foggy and fuzzy. I felt handicapped and slowed down in the development of my life. When I grew up, I ignored those strange stories more and more and finally left the protestant church when I was in my thirties. Many years later, when I learned about the religion of Humanistic Judaism my brain became clear again. This religion reflects my real life and my faith at its best. – There is no God. So there is no point in believing in ‘him’ or ‘her’. – Consequently there is no son of God. – Consequently, the Bible was not written or dictated by God. But by humans. – Same with the Ten Commandments, they are a human invention to regulate and civilize social behavior. Some of the ancient laws have made sense in their time, but since we live in hygienic conditions, circumcision is not required and since we have fridges we can store food much better (and it makes more sense to have a separate wine fridge than one for milk). The concept of Shabbat however has always been reasonable as current discussions on ‘work-life balance’ and the ‘four-day workweek’ indicate. Friends have asked me why I’ve joined Jewish Humanism, not Christian Humanism or another Atheistic Humanism. For me, the answer is simple. Judaism is the original religion of the Western hemisphere, the mother of all religions in our cultural home, between India and the Americas. In the last four thousand years the Jews have achieved a unique cultural level where daily routines and life events are in line with the spoken or written law of the Torah, the Tanach and its Rabbinic interpretations. Even under diaspora conditions the Jewish law connected and unified the Jewish People worldwide as a whole. The Thora Rolls in all Jewish congregations have been identical and were copied carefully letter by letter. No other belief or religion has been so stable and reliable over such a long time. In short: the Jewish religion is the heavyweight among the Western religions. And the humanistic flavor of it is the most developed one for modern mankind. For me as a German, my Jewish religion also expresses my solidarity and my identity with the maltreated, expelled, and murdered people. It was my parents’ and grandparents’ Nazi generations who destroyed six million Jewish lives. This incredible crime still loads guilt on my shoulders and there is not much more I can do than support Jewish life and defend it against the growing antisemitism. Since I became Jewish I’m learning Hebrew and I got some friends in Israel. They enjoyed my protest at the ‘world art fair documenta fifteen’ last year in Germany when artists from the ‘global south’ ignored and kept out Jewish artists from Israel. Those same artists even exhibited artworks featuring antisemitic symbols. My protest says: “The Israelis are missing here” and expressed in my photos.
At documenta fifteen in Kassel, I expressed my opinion on the supposedly “world’s most important series of exhibitions for contemporary art” (Wikipedia): “The Israelis are missing here”. My protest in Hebrew is intended to be understood primarily in Israel itself and serves to reassure German-Israeli solidarity. The images below are free to use.
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