The Future of the Jewish People
Third Biennial Conference
Chicago, October 1990
The survival of the Jewish people is a compelling issue for the Jewish world. For millennia, the Jewish will to survive has been steadfast and resolute. In the century of the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, and the creation of significant Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere, that resolve continues to be vigorous and unshaken.
How can we best ensure the survival and the strength of the Jewish people?
The freedom and equality of an open society have challenged the traditional structures of the Jewish community. Jewish emancipation, both individual and collective, has enabled many Jews to resist the orthodoxies of the past and to develop alternative expressions of their Jewishness. This new freedom has radically altered the character of the Jewish people.
Many representative of Orthodox Judaism, and especially its fundamentalist adherents, claim that freedom and diversity are bad for the Jews. They resist pluralism in Jewish life and reject the right of Jews, both as individuals and as communities, to express their Jewish identity in accordance with their own consciences.
We, the members of the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews, affirm our commitment to the survival of the Jewish people. Pluralism is not a threat to that survival, but its guarantee.
Secular Humanistic Judaism, which embraces pluralism, has an important role to play in Jewish continuity. No single belief system or lifestyle can win the allegiance of all Jews. Jewish history is witness to the positive force of diversity. Where diversity and personal freedom exist, there is more Jewish creativity and more opportunity for Jews to find their place within the Jewish people.
The issue of pluralism and individual freedom goes beyond mere survival. The quality of Jewish survival is as important as the fact of survival. That quality demands the guarantee of human rights to all people, including the right of personal and cultural freedom.
Rigid and narrow views about the nature of Jewish identity are dangerous, especially now, when we are experiencing the liberation of Soviet Jewry, its cultural renaissance and the emigration to Israel and other countries.
We support the struggle for pluralism and for equality for all expressions of Judaism throughout the Jewish world. We support the struggle in Israel against Orthodox coercion, which threatens democracy in the Jewish homeland and the very survival of the State.
We commit ourselves to a Jewish future that guarantees pluralism, religious and secular, within one civilization.
The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.