Liturgical Interpretation by Secular Humanistic Judaism

March 15, 2012


According to Rabbi Adam Chalom, Dean — North America of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, “traditional” prayers that include God-language and spiritual trope may be reinterpreted by Secular Humanistic Jews, but some in this community are not comfortable doing so.

Some people are very comfortable adapting traditional pieces like Shema and Kaddish to more humanistic versions, while others aren’t comfortable doing so — they feel like it’s disrespectful or inauthentic to make such changes. I sometimes joke that it is the difference between a creative jazz riff on the original and a Weird Al Yankovic parody — and different people could feel one way or the other about the same piece. So some communities use Humanistic adaptations, while others have substitutes for such texts rather than new adaptations. Our adaptation of “Oseh Shalom” (He makes peace) [a popular blessing to sing during services] to “Na’ase Shalom” [We will make peace] is generally not controversial, but Shema and Kaddish tend to be the hot-button topics.

As with many other Jewish denominations (or movements), texts and liturgy are reexamined and tested out to see if they fit the current society’s needs. Rabbi Chalom has kindly shared a few examples with us:

In addition, you might find the following examples of full services helpful: