Wandering Jew Looking for a Home

By Joan Kurtz

My husband and I moved from New Hamsphire to western Massachusetts in April. Since then, I have been looking for a Jewish community. There are at least three synagogues within a half hour but none are secular. I have found, though, two interesting groups which might meet my expectations.

The first is called MA.-ASH. This stands for Massachusetts Atheists, Secularists and Humanists. They meet twice a month -- midweek for a happy hour at a local restaurant and the last Saturday of the month for either a guest presenter or a group discussion. The most recent meeting was attended by around 25 people. We discussed such diverse topics as spirituality, social activism, and the 12-step program for alcoholics. Attending were at least six secular Jews. Interesting and open-minded people.

The other group appears to be similar to a chavurah -- Jews without a synagogue who meet for various reasons. They held an outdoor service for Rosh Hashannah, ending with tashlich at a nearby stream. I attended a community sing where we sang Hebrew, Ladino and English songs, danced one Israeli folk dance and ended with a vegetarian potluck dinner. Again, people seem very nice and welcoming.

I enjoyed both groups, each with a different focus, but together they might satisfy my needs. I will continue to attend their events and see where it goes.

CSJO is My Community

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By Madeline Burns CSJO is my community. It is my assurance that no matter where I am, I am connected to the people who make me feel Jewish, my friends, my family. It is the community that supported me when my mother was sick and passed away. It was the community who gave my sister and me our Bat Mitzvahs when we never thought we'd get one. It's the community who not only allowed, but encouraged and welcomed, my family to join because my father's church wouldn't accept my mother and my mother's synagogue wouldn't accept my father. It is the community that showed me that being a strong person is what you should strive for. It is the community that showed me how to be Jewish in a way I understood and accepted. It is the community that I could never live without. From my first conference when I was 13 years old, it has been my community, my home.

The Importance of Supporting CSJO

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By Dorothy Werblow, Treasurer, Jewish Secular Community of Cleveland, Ohio, and CSJO Supporter Every year the time arrives when each community has to pay their dues to CSJO. Our group, as most, I think, has low membership dues and there is always a discussion about the expense and remarks that we shouldn't rejoin because "CSJO doesn't do anything for us." These remarks only come from a few people. From their narrow viewpoint, I certainly understand, but disagree.

It seems to me that very few of our members, in Cleveland, Ohio, have much knowledge of, or interest in, the international secular Jewish movement. They don't attend the marvelous colloquiums in Michigan or the annual Memorial Day weekends. I have noticed that books are not often borrowed from our library. As this is probably not uncommon in the CSJO family, folks join because they can express their Jewishness in a "Hamish" environment; our monthly Shabbat programs are very short; the food is always good and the folks are great, fun people to spend time with.

CSJO is our connection to the Jewish community, at large, everywhere, not only in our particular city. It is imperative that each community support CSJO because not being part of the national group implies that this is not a movement; we are not an important and growing branch of Judaism; and there might be conflicts of some kind (personality). It has been a long road to achieve the recognition and support of the Jewish Federation in Cleveland. We now have it. I think it is petty and short-sighted to not be part of the national group.

CSJO has grown tremendously in their almost 50 years. At one time I wondered about what they were accomplishing. It seemed like a club of people who had been friends for years and years. A new constitution and bylaws have recently been born, the leadership has changed, technology is improving service to the constituents, and the costs of providing all this has been kept very, very low.

One year, at the colloquium, historian Dr. Norman Cantor was a presenter and was exposed to the humanist and secular Jewish movement for the first time. He was super impressed and told a few of us at the hotel that what CSJO needs is a billionaire benefactor so that we could get the word out. The "Jewish world" needs us. Bill and Melinda Gates and Steven Spielberg were already "taken." Slow and steady progress worked in the past and it will continue to do so.

Dorothy Werblow Jewish Secular Community in Cleveland Volunteer and Member since 1984