A Community for Secular Jews

Do you identify as Jewish but consider yourself non-religious?

Secular Humanistic Jews are interested in Jewish history and culture and in celebrating the traditional holidays and observing the rites of passage in a non-theistic way.

000hj2People of the Mountain – Am HaHar – is a small local Humanistic Jewish group in the Sewanee/Monteagle area. We meet together to celebrate the Jewish holidays, offer occasional educational opportunities (such as Challah baking) and support each other in living out our Jewish heritage. We are associated with the Society for Humanistic Judaism. You can find out more about us on our website, http://www.amhahar.com .

Perhaps we can be a home for you.

CONTACT US!

A Brief Humanistic Observance for a Shavuot Picnic

shavuot

Shavuot literally means “weeks,” so named because the festival is exactly seven weeks (plus one day) from the second night of Passover. It is also called Festival of First Fruits, Hag HaBikkurim, Pentecost, and the Feast of Weeks. This feast, one of three pilgrimage festivals – the other two are Sukkot and Passover – marked the end of the barley and beginning of the wheat harvest. In ancient times, it was probably a midsummer festival taken over from the Canaanite

We rejoice in this blessed time of Shavuot.
                 May everyone have a bountiful harvest.

(The Candles are lit.)
Barukh ha-or ba-olam
Barukh ha-or ba-adam
Barukh ha-or ba-shavuot

                Radiant is the light in the world
               Radiant is the light within people
              Radiant is the light of Shavuot

B’rukhim hamotziim lehem min haaretz.

    Blessed are those who bring forth bread from the earth.

Shavuot is a minor, ancient pilgrimage festival that marked the harvest of barley. Shavuot literally means “weeks,” so named because the festival is exactly seven weeks (plus one day) from the second night of Passover. It is also called Festival of First Fruits, Hag HaBikkurim, Pentecost, and the Feast of Weeks. This feast, one of three pilgrimage festivals – the other two are Sukkot and Passover – marked the end of the barley and beginning of the wheat harvest. In ancient times, it was probably a midsummer festival taken over from the Canaanites.

On this festival in Temple times, according to the book of Leviticus, two loaves (shetei halehem) were “waved before the Lord.” These had to be offered only from the best new wheat, from produce grown that year in Israel. Shavuot was associated with the bringing of the bikkurim, “the first ripe fruits,” to the Temple of Jerusalem.

In rabbinic times, a radical transformation of the festival took place. Based on the verse from the book of Exodus: “In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai,” the festival became the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. In the traditional liturgy, Shavuot is zeman mattan torateinu (“the time of the giving of our Torah”). The ancient agricultural feasts were recreated into festivals marking the anniversary of significant legendary events in the life of the people. Both Passover and Sukkot are connected with the Exodus as well.

Unlike Passover and Sukkot, Shavuot has just a few special rituals. In modern Israel, some kibbutzim have tried to revive some of the harvest ceremonies. In the synagogue, it is customary to read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot. It is customary in some congregations to decorate the synagogue with plants and flowers. It is also customary to eat dairy products in the home on Shavuot. In some communities triangular pancakes stuffed with meat or cheese are eaten because the Hebrew Bible has three parts (Torah, Prophets, and Writings).

Pavel’s Violin is now Available

Pavel’s Violin is now available on Amazon

All Proceeds go to the US Holocaust Museum.

Pavel Cover FrontList Price: $24.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
466 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1539335221 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1539335224
BISAC: Fiction / Historical / General
From 1942 – 1945, Paul (Pavel, in Czech) was a prisoner in the Terezin and Auschwitz concentration camps. He survived the camps, and the final Death March from Auschwitz. Pavel had been a violinist before the war, and after his escape his brother found a “not so new but nice” violin for Pavel to play. Pavel lost many members of his family in the camps, but a few survived. A descendent of one of those survivors inherited the violin and, many years later, became my violin teacher. This is how I came to play “Pavel’s Violin.” The violin itself is a beautiful Jakob Stainer model, built perhaps in the mid-1800s. In the novel, it is made by Stainer in 1670, and we trace its journey from Stainer’s home in Absam, Austria, to the Prince-Bishop’s Palace in Kromeriz, Moravia, to the Jewish community in the Moravian countryside, to the great synagogue at Olomouc, to Terezin, then Auschwitz, and finally to the Carpathian Mountain, where it finally becomes “Pavel’s Violin.” Along the way, the Violin is a metaphor for the human condition: our joys, fears, sorrows, hatred, loves, and our hope for a good future.

“Pavel’s Violin” is a work of historical fiction, a genre peculiar enough to be seriously misunderstood. Historical fiction is not literal history that has been fictionalized to the point that its details are not reliable news accounts of what happened. It is fiction inspired by historical events in order to convey truths which are deeper than literal. Historical fiction, at its best, serves as a metaphor that can draw a reader into a story as a first hand participant, rather than as a consumer of facts. This is what I have tried to do with the story of “Pavel’s Violin.” I hope you will not just learn about what happened, but that you will become part of the story, yourself. That you will stand beside Jakob atop Kartellerjochl, with Pavel in a cattle car transport on its way to Auschwitz, with Nurse Ilse and her children as Zyklon B pellets fall among them in the gas chamber. And more. I hope you will not only hear the Violin, but will experience the playing of it. The sound of its music under your left ear. The vibrations of the wood upon your chin and shoulder. Most of all, I hope you, too, will realize the compulsion of the story, and the obligation to recount it, in your own way, to others.

Entire U.S. Senate Demands Trump Act on Jewish Center Threats

SHINGTON — In a remarkable display of bipartisanship, every single member of the United States Senate signed an open letter to the Trump administration Tuesday demanding that action be taken to address the ongoing surge in anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country.

JCCThe letter, which will be sent to the heads of multiple government agencies, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey, warns that if the issue goes ignored, human lives will be endangered.

It came amidst a sixth wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers across North America, as well as several offices of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group that combats bigotry worldwide.

“These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states,” the 100 senators said in their appeal.

“This is completely unacceptable and un-American,” they added. “We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”

At least 14 Jewish sites were targeted Tuesday amid ongoing threats that have caused multiple evacuations and prompted some parents to pull their children out of JCC school programs. Since the trend began in January, more than 100 Jewish institutions experienced bomb threats, and multiple Jewish cemeteries were vandalized.

The events have led many to fear a sustained assault on the American Jewish community.

Drafted by Michigan Sen. Gary Peters (D), Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R), Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), the letter urged the administration to devote its full resources to confronting the threats and assisting the victims.

“We encourage you to communicate with individual JCCs, the JCC Association of North JCC TombsAmerica, Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other Jewish community institutions regarding victim assistance, grant opportunities or other federal assistance that may be available to enhance security measures and improve preparedness,” the text said.

“We also recognize the anti-Semitic sentiment behind this spate of threats and encourage your Departments to continue to inform state and local law enforcement organizations of their obligations under the Hate Crime Statistics Act and other federal laws,” it added.

President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitic attacks in his maiden speech to Congress one week ago, opening that address by saying the phenomenon was a reminder “of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that remains.”

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” he said.

Many of the nation’s most prominent and powerful Jewish organizations immediately came out in support of the letter, including the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Orthodox Union, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Union for Reform Judaism.

“I commend Senators Peters, Portman, Nelson and Rubio for mobilizing such a resounding bipartisan call for action,” said ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt. “Today the Senate demonstrated a unified moral front against hatred and sent a strong message that in our America a threat against one of us is an attack on all of us.”

A Holocaust Remembrance Poem for a Light-Hearted Family Meal

holocaust-remembrance-820x461

So we are having some non-Jewish friends over to share our Shabbat meal tonight, in our spirit of “Shabbat-Salon.” But it is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I was looking for a poem that could honor the Day, yet not in such a graphic way that it would cast a pall over an otherwise joyful dinner. I could not find one, of course, and realized the horror of even trying. So, in that spirit, I wrote my own poem about people who should never be forgotten, no matter how inconvenient the memory:

I Could Not Find a Pleasant Poem

I could not find a poem today
(he said) to use here, in our quiet home.
I could not find a gentle verse to say
what needed to be said –
what no one can say
in a pleasant way
about the unpleasant dead.
I could not find a courteous
and gentle verse
that would not drop the pall of curse
upon a pleasant night,
that we might mourn the millions dead,
yet keep them out of sight.

(C) William Melnyk, 1/27/2017

 

PART OF A World-Wide Community

humanorah_society_for_humanistic_judaismHUMANISTIC JUDAISM IS A WORLD WIDE COMMUNITY

Why join a larger community?

Humanistic Judaism is an innovative philosophy in Jewish life. Many of us were drawn to its honesty, its boldness, its openness and its creativity. The philosophy brought us to our congregation, but it is our quest for community that compels us to stay. We want to associate with others who share our vision — our view of Jewish identity. We want to share our ideas and feel the warmth of their acceptance.

The opportunity for communal acceptance is greater than what we receive from our local congregation. There are Jews who live outside of our area who share our Jewish outlook. They are Humanistic Jews and they celebrate their identity in ways both similar to and different from what we do in our local communities. In learning about the Society for Humanistic Judaism and the other congregations, there arises the promise of new friends, fresh ideas, different music, and diverse perspectives. This enriches us, enables us to deepen our knowledge of Humanistic Judaism and enhances our ability to celebrate our identity.

Beyond North America is the world of Secular Humanistic Judaism. Secular Humanistic Judaism in Hebrew, Italian, French, Russian and Spanish is a mind boggling and exhilarating experience. Each country contributes their particular point of view and unique expression of our basic philosophy to our collective understanding. What we share is the passion of our viewpoint. New worlds are opened to us.

We are strengthened by this expansion of our vision. We are no longer only a local congregation, no longer only a North American Society. We are a worldwide movement. We feel the excitement that this realization affords us. We are something greater than our individual selves.

Rabbi Miriam Jerris
Society for Humanistic Judaism