What is Humanistic Judaism?

Humanistic Judaism is the fifth denominational branch of Judaism. It combines the philosophy of humanism by which human beings are deemed responsible and accountable for one’s life, with the definition of Judaism as the collective historical experience of the Jewish people. Humanistic Judaism emphasizes a cultural, ethnic and/or secular approach to Judaism that is non-theistic and confined to the natural world in practice. The central ethical value of Humanistic Judaism is the dignity of every individual.

My family is an interfaith family. Would we feel welcome at Beth Chaverim?

Interfaith or intercultural families are warmly welcomed at Beth Chaverim. All members of a family are full participants in life cycle events, holiday celebrations, and the governance of Beth Chaverim.

Where do you hold events?

We utilize many community resources. Sunday School is held at the Center for Enriched Living in Riverwoods, IL; services are held at a local middle school in Deerfield, IL; bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies are generally held at the same location as a family’s celebration. Some programs are held at local bookstores, cafes and restaurants.

Do you have a rabbi?

Yes. Rabbi Jodi Kornfeld leads Beth Chaverim. She was ordained in 2009 by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism. Rabbi Kornfeld is available for life cycle events including baby namings, weddings, and funerals for members and non-members.

Do you prepare students for a bar/bat mitzvah?

Yes. Students study Hebrew for one year prior to their bar/bat mitzvah, with the goal being to read from the Torah. Students choose the portion of the story that they would like to read. In addition, students engage in a community service project.

I consider myself spiritual but not religious. Are Humanistic Judaism and Beth Chaverim a good fit for me?

Absolutely. Judaism is a communal experience in which we celebrate together, learn together, and grieve together. We engage only in meaningful ritual to enhance our experience and thereby expand our connections to one another. Further, we emphasize our cultural and ethnic experiences as Jews to create meaningful and relevant Jewish identity.

If I don’t know Hebrew, will I be able to understand your services?

Yes. Our services are largely in English. Whenever Hebrew is used, it is immediately translated so no one feels excluded by language.

What are some activities that Beth Chaverim offers?

In addition to a weekly Sunday School, we hold High Holiday services; a Chanukah dinner; and a second night community Passover seder. Our learn-to-read Hebrew class is held on Sunday, following the grade level classes. We offer adult education classes, and a monthly book group. We have held multi-session programs on Jewish identity through film; food and Jewish culture; and a celebration of Jewish culture featuring several speakers.

What does “Beth Chaverim” mean?

It means “House of Friends.”

Where do your members come from?

The simple answer is all over the entire metropolitan Chicago area. Members come from as far north as Mundelein and as far south as the City of Chicago and far southern suburbs.