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Humanistic Sources of Jewish Law

A TORAH COMMENTARY by David Micah Greenberg   THE REVELATION at Sinai is the subject of the approaching Torah portion, Yitro (“Jethro,” Exodus 18:1-20:23, read in synagogue on February 3rd this year). But the book starts with the story of Jethro, a priest of Midian and Moses’ father-in-law from his years of exile in that land, who […]

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Erich Fromm’s Humanistic Judaism

THE MODERN MEANING OF IDOLATRY by Sam K. Rodin From the Summer 2017 issue of Jewish Currents   FOR THE GREAT humanist thinker Erich Fromm, the Hebrew Bible was a revolutionary book. “Its theme,” he wrote (in You Shall Be As Gods, 1966), “is the liberation of [humanity] from the incestuous ties to blood and soil, […]

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The Uncivil Servant: In Praise of Esperanto

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Bridge of Words by Esther Schor. Metropolitan Books, 2016, indexed, 364 pages SOME TIME NEAR the end of the 20th century, the late, lamented magazine Lingua Franca ran an article about the international language, Esperanto. It presented it so attractively that I immediately picked up some teach-yourself books, […]

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November 24: The Lens Grinder

Philosopher Baruch Spinoza was born in the Netherlands on this date in 1632. He made his living as a lens grinder and turned down numerous teaching positions while writing and developing the philosophical outlook that would be explicated (in part through mathematical argument) in Ethics, published after his death in 1677, a book described by […]

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September 10: Jared Diamond

Science writer and scientist Jared Diamond, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997) as well as The World Until Yesterday (2012), Collapse (2005) and The Third Chimpanzee (1992), among other books, was born in Boston on this date in 1937. He earned a degree in history and anthropology from Harvard in 1958 […]

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May 1: Raya Dunayevskaya and Marxist Humanism

Raya Dunayevskaya, a lifelong Marxist who served Leon Trotsky as secretary during his Mexican exile and broke with him over his defense of the USSR as a “workers’ state” following the Hitler-Stalin Pact (she insisted that the Soviet Union practiced “state capitalism”), was born Raya Shpigel in the Ukraine on this date in 1910. In […]

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March 28: The Quark

Physicist Jerome Isaac Friedman, who shared a 1990 Nobel prize for experimental confirmation of the structure of fundamental particles known as quarks, was born in Chicago to Russian Jewish immigrants on this date in 1930. Friedman was oriented towards the arts until he read a book by Albert Einstein. He then turned down a scholarship […]

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Sholem Aleichem: Pity for Living Creatures

Thoughts of a Silly Boy by Sholem Aleichem Translated by Yankl Stillman Originally published in the January-February 2009 issue of Jewish Currents   ‘IF YOU WANT to be a good little boy, you can help us grate horseradish, until we get done preparing the fish for the holiday.” That’s what my mother said to me, […]

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December 21: Paul Kurtz and American Humanism

Paul Kurtz, the dean of American secular humanism and its organizer-in-chief for decades, was born in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1925. Kurtz taught philosophy at SUNY Buffalo (and before that at Vassar and several other colleges) and was editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry, published by the Council for Secular Humanism. He also founded […]

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July 21: Sherwin Wine and Humanistic Judaism

Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of Humanistic Judaism and the key builder of its institutions, died at 79 in an automobile accident in Morocco on this date in 2007. Ordained by the Reform movement, Wine founded the Birmingham Temple, the first humanistic synagogue, outside Detroit in 1963. He was also the founder of the Society […]

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