Outreach (to Rabbis)
One thing that I have noticed since working at Beth Chai, is how little the rest of the Jewish community knows or understands about Humanist Judaism. Many of my Rabbinic colleagues, even from the more progressive end of Jewish spectrum, approach Humanist Judaism with hesitation and suspicion. Others purport to be purely curious, but often have a slightly judgemental edge to their questions.
When I was first ordained, I served small congregation in Cary, NC. Many native Southerners had never met a Jew before and, so, I made it part of my mission to visit lots of churches and tell them about Judaism. Nowadays, I feel like my role is somewhat the same - but not talking to southern protestants about Judaism, but to Reform and Conservative rabbis about Humanism.
It came up again this week on the Reform Rabbis' Facebook discussion. A rabbi asked a question about the inclusion of Humanist Jews. A lengthy discussion ensued, with varying degrees of knowledge and open-mindedness. There is fear, I've found, that Humanist Judaism is somehow related to Messianic Judaism, while nothing could be further from the truth. Whereas Reform and Judaism still embrace some concept of the messiah or the messianic age, this concept is antithetical to Humanist Judaism.
I jumped into the conversation and told the group about Beth Chai and my positive experiences at our congregation. I hope that, perhaps, by participating in conversations like this, I will open the door to further questions and discussions. It is not same as driving my 1995 Mazda Protege through tobacco fields of North Carolina to a country church, but, then again, it is not so different either.