How could I modify the Parenting Through a Jewish Lens (PTJL) curriculum to teach it without God? This was my central question when I started to prepare to teach this course.
As a Reconstructionist rabbi, I am someone who personally believes in God. But as the education director of Kahal Braira, I also believe that Jews have the right to experience Judaism without references to God. Many Jews struggle with what to believe — or not — about God. Jewish humanism makes this explicit, leaving this as a question up to the individual. Kahal Braira (KB for short) is Boston’s Humanistic Jewish congregation; the words “Kahal Braira” mean “Community of Choice.”
My challenge was how remove references to God, and add a contemporary, humanist flavor – emphasizing that human actions are what is ultimately important.
The second session, “Infusing Our Lives with Meaning” introduces ways to create a “sacred space” in the home. The PTJL sourcebook has many lovely readings and reflections on this concept, and proposes using a mezuzah – which traditionally includes the text of the Shema — as one way to do that. For this community, I considered: What do we want to put on our doorposts, what statement is so central to us that we want to be reminded of it, when we enter a space, when we leave it?
KB reinterprets the Shema as “Shema Yisrael – Ehad K’halaynu; Enoshut Echat – Hear O Israel – Humanity is one; Our community is one.” I reached out to Rabbi Miriam Jerris, at the Society of Humanistic Judaism, for other humanistic versions of the Shema. She sent me “A Declaration of Interdependence: On Listening and Oneness.” It reads “The Earth, our world, is One. All peoples, all beings, are One.” Either of these versions are statements that I would be proud to put on my doorpost, and be reminded of in my comings and goings. I had a sense that the participants would feel similarly.