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February 26, 1988 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-02-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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14

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 1988

SALON

Yehuda Bauer: Speaking for the quiet majority.

Secular Humanist Advocates
A Judaism Without Religion

ELIZABETH KAPLAN

Staff Writer

rof. Yehuda Bauer has
a passion for Human-
istic Judaism.
The president of the Inter-
national Federation of
Secular Humanistic Jews, he
also serves as chairman of the
International Institute for
Secular Humanistic Judaism
in Jerusalem. The institute
was established several years
ago to research, promote and
create . Humanistic Jewish
literature and culture, and to
serve as a leadership training
center. It is, Bauer stressed,
an organized effort and an
organized force within the
Jewish community.
With equal fervor, Bauer
has devoted himself to a very
different topic: the Holocaust.
He has written numerous
books on the subject and
worked as a consultant on the
documentary Shoah. At the
heart of this work appears
Bauer's continuous desire to
counter claims that the
murder of 6 million Jews was
some kind of catharsis of a
mid-20th Century European
Jewish community plagued
by heretics and heathens.
Bauer made a brief ap-
pearance in Detroit last week
to speak at the Birmingham
Temple as part of the temple's
25th anniversary celebration.
Like passing on zaydie's
tallit to his grandson, Bauer's
tradition of secular
humanism is an inherited

p

one. He described his father a
man who attended synagogue
once a year — on Yom Kippur
— and his mother as a woman
who was "an atheist all her
life."
Admittedly, Bauer lapsed
briefly into what he called
"my religious period" follow-
ing his immigration from
Czechoslovakia to Haifa as a
young boy. "But after I finish-
ed reading the Bible all the
way through, I realized I was
not religious," he said.
Bauer found that the Bible
is "the story of the history of
a people" replete with prose,
poetry and philosophy. What
it is not, he said, is God's
word.
In the past ten years,
Bauer's interest in Secular
Humanism has evolved into a
full-fledged campaign. This is
due in large part to what the
professor views as an inten-
sified assault from the
religious right.
"The concepts were always
there, but I didn't have to
fight for them, " Bauer said
of his beliefs. "Then I realiz-
ed that something had to be
done to articulate the values
of the quiet majority." Accor-
ding to Bauer, more than 80
percent of Israelis do not iden-
tify themselves as religiously
observant and, in the United
States, 55 percent of the
Jewish community is
unaffiliated.
As a Secular Humanist
Jew, Bauer advocates "a
traditional Jewry. We have a
history, a culture and a

civilization that has extended
over 3,000 years, at least."
Now, he contends this is being
threatened by the strife bet-
ween Reform, Conservative
and Orthodox Jews.
"The unifying thing in
Judaism is not religion," he
asserted. "That is the split-
ting thing."
Secular
Humanism,
however, with its focus on the
value of human beings, is a
pluralistic approach with
room for all views; thus, he
said, it unifies rather than
destroys. "We recognize that
there are different concepts in
Judaism and that all these
are legitimate in their own
right," Bauer said.
Bauer is hesitant to gauge
the interest in Secular
Humanism within Israel,
despite the fact that its values
are directly linked to the crea-
tion of the Jewish State.
(Skeptics, he said, may refer
to former Prime Minister
David Ben-Gurion.)
**According to the pro-
fessor, at the time of the foun-
ding of Israel, "the religious
establishment was a small
minority — well-respected,
well-integrated and absolute-
ly uninvolved in the state."
Yet during the past decade,
ultra-religious elements have
amassed tremendous power
both in Israel and elsewhere,
he said. "It's not only the
Jews who've become crazy;
it's the Christians, the
Muslims and the Sikhs as
well."
Bauer
qualifies
his

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