Middle Eastern Family, Part I: Judaism: Intrafaith Organizations
Middle Eastern Family, Part I: Judaism: Intrafaith Organizations
American Association of Rabbis
350 Fifth Ave., Ste. 3304
New York, NY 10118
The American Association of Rabbis is a professional organization of rabbis who minister either in a congregation, an educational setting, or the chaplaincy.
Periodicals: Quarterly Bulletin.
International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews
28611 W. Twelve Mile Rd.
Farmington Hills, MI 48334
The International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews is a worldwide organization that was established in 1986 in Detroit, Michigan, to offer a non-theistic approach to Jewish identity and culture. It exists as a distinct alternative to Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Judaism. The organization exists through its regional structures (North America, Latin America, Europe, and Israel) and its national branches currently located in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Israel, the United States, and Uruguay. The North American region consists of two organizations, the Society for Humanistic Judaism and the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations.
The International Federation is headed by its president Yehuda Bauer, a historian and Holocaust scholar at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Serving as honorary president is Albert Memmi, a sociologist at the University of Paris. The federation supports the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, an intellectual and training center in Jerusalem.
The federation has affirmed its belief in the value of human reason, human existence and the power of human beings to solve their problems, Jewish identity and the survival of the Jewish people, and a secular humanistic democracy for Israel.
Membership: As of 1995 there were 9 national branches with a constituency of 30,000 people, approximately half of whom live in the United States.
Goodman, Saul N. The Faith of Secular Jews. New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1976.
Ibry, David. Exodus to Humanism: Jewish Identity Without Religion. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1999.
Wine, Sherwin T. Humanistic Judaism. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1978.
New York Board of Rabbis
136 E. 39th St.
New York, NY 10016-0914
The New York Board of Rabbis, founded in 1881, is the largest interdenominational rabbinic body in the world. The board consists of over 800 rabbis—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist—who serve 1.5 million congregants. The board furnishes chaplains for city, county, and state hospitals; nursing homes; and mental health and correctional institutions. It is involved in interfaith and interethnic dialogues with clergy of various faiths. It lobbies on behalf of Jewish religious interests on the city, county, and state levels. For example, it has called for kosher food to be served at public functions within the Jewish community; insisted on proper Jewish rites at funerals; enrolled rabbis to urge the issuance of a Get and the signing of a prenuptial agreement to obtain a Get; lobbied for Kashrut standards in public institutions and correctional facilities including the distribution of Passover food and religious articles for patients and inmates; moved to protect the rights of Sabbath observers; prevented the administering of exams in the public universities on the Sabbath and holidays; prevented the County Medical Examiner from forcing delays in burial. The Brith Milah Board, an affiliate of the New York Board of Rabbis, certifies Mohalim who satisfy halakic and medical requirements.
The board conducts television and radio programs and helps maintain the international synagogue at Kennedy Airport. In short, the New York Board of Rabbis is the voice of mainstream religious Jewry in the metropolitan area. For over 121 years, these accomplishments have come about by virtue of rabbis transcending their theological and religious differences and working together in mutual respect and understanding for the advancement of Jewish observance, education, and values.
Membership: In 2002, the board reported 800 members in the United states and 50 overseas.
Rosenthal, Gilbert S. Come Let Us Reason Together. New York: New York Board of Rabbis, n.d. 27 pp.
Teplitz, Saul I. The Rabbis Speak: A Quarter Century of Sermons for the High Holy Days. New York: New York Board of Rabbis, 1986. 474 pp.
North American Coalition to Advance Religious Pluralism in Israel
c/o Nan Rich, National Council of Jewish Women
820 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10017-4504
Efforts that led to the formation of the North American Coalition for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism in Israel began in 1996 following the disbanding of the Synagogue Council of America. The council, which had included Orthodox, Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders floundered on issues concerning the status of the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Jewish communities, particularly in Israel. Then in May of 1996, as elections in Israel approached, six Reform organizations, eight Conservative agencies, one Reconstructionist group, the American Jewish Congress, Labor Zionist Alliance, NA'AMAT USA, and the New Israel Fund hastily formed a coalition and issued a letter to then the leading candidates for prime minister concerning rumored concessions to the Orthodox majority that would negatively effect non-Orthodox communities in Israel. That letter was sent out under the name of the North American Coalition to Advance Religious Pluralism in Israel.
Following the elections, a second letter was sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that further expressed heightened concern that Reform and Conservative representatives would be denied any seats on the municipal religious councils and that the Orthodox would be granted sole authority over issues involving people converting to Judaism.
Then in 1998, concern for what it saw as growing religious intolerance in Israel led the National Council of Jewish Women to convened a gathering of representatives from several Jewish organizations to establish an organization to address issues of religious pluralism. They named the resulting group the North American Coalition for the Advancement of Religious Freedom in Israel. It chose to initially focus on marriage in Israel where civil marriage and marriage conducted by non-Orthodox clergy are prohibited.
In its first statement, issued in 1999, the coalition stated, "We support the right of full religious expression and worship for all streams of Judaism at public religious sites such as the Western Wall in Israel."
Membership: Not reported. The coalition includes a number of Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative organizations.
National Council of Jewish Women. http://www.ncjw.org/index.htm. 10 April 2002.
North American Coalition to Advance Religious Pluralism in Israel. http://rj.org/openltr.html. 10 April 2002.
Synagogue Council of America
The Synagogue Council of America was founded in 1926 for the purpose of providing the several branches of Judaism with a common voice and making the synagogue the center of Jewish spiritual influence. It served as a coordinating body for several of the rabbinical and congregational associations, especially in speaking to the President of the United States and members of Congress.
Membership: Members of the council included the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform), Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative), Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox), Union of American Hebrew Congregations (Reform), Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and United Synagogue of America (Conservative).
Rosenthal, Gilbert S. Contemporary Judaism: Patterns of Survival. 2nd ed. New York: Human Sciences Press, 1986.