For Humanistic Jews, becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah means that the child has begun a process of self-exploration and thoughtful participation in Jewish communal life. The Birmingham Temple Congregation involves and honors families from a variety of backgrounds and needs. Our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are unique. They inspire children to become good people while embracing their roots and heritage. The purpose of the Mitzvah celebration, as well as all education for Humanistic Jews, is to educate rather then indoctrinate. We encourage the children attending our school to live lives of kindness, courage and dignity.
For Humanistic Jews, “mitzvah means not commandment” but rather “good deed." The humanistic B’nai Mitzvah encourages children to develop a sense of their own values, dreams and aspirations.
In a Humanistic Jewish community the child engages in a course of study with a mentor from the congregation. The student chooses a hero out of Jewish history that represents his or her values. The hero is a figure that inspires students to think about their lives and futures. Some examples of heroes that mitzvah students have chosen are: Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Anne Frank, Simon Wisenthal, Beverly Sills, Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, and George Gershwin. The child researches this person’s life with the help of a mentor and creates a presentation that is delivered to the congregation on the day of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Our Humanistic congregation supports the child in this process and encourages self-esteem, personal responsibility and a sense of universal ethics.
Humanistic Jewish weddings affirm the dignity and love of the couple. Everything that is done and said reinforces the bond of hope, loyalty, and happiness between the marrying couple.
Humanistic Jewish weddings affirm the bond of marriage between people from the same and from different religious backgrounds. In the spirit of openness and hospitality, we seek to make everyone present feel welcome and included.
Humanistic Jewish weddings draw from the best from Jewish tradition to deepen and enrich the wedding ceremony. Drinking from the wine goblet, standing beneath the chupa, reading the ketubah, and breaking the glass all blend together to create a ceremony that is rich in beautiful heritage.
Humanistic Jewish weddings affirm the outlook on life of the Humanistic Jew. We say only that which we believe and strive to have integrity in all that we do. We celebrate Hebrew as the cultural language of the Jews and in our wedding ceremonies we include literature from the Jewish past and present that affirms the light, hope, and strength present in people.
How do you conduct a Humanistic Jewish Babynaming?
Humanistic Hebrew naming ceremonies are the way we welcome
a child into the world and into the Jewish people. During the
ceremony the baby receives a Hebrew name. Most people
choose to name the child after a person they love who is no longer
alive. In this way the baby carries on the life and legacy of this
The ceremony is egalitarian. I recommend that circumcision be
done in the hospital. Babynamings can take place any time that
the parents feel ready for the ceremony. Sometimes they occur
shortly after a child is born and sometimes they occur after some
time has past. The important thing is that they occur because they
are an essential link to Jewish identity and to supporting the
family structure at a time of transition into the constitution of a