Update from CSJO (November 2016)

By Terry Waslow, Executive Director, CSJO

Hello everyone,

It has been quite a busy time since I sent my last email. The schools have been bustling with activities and are soon to be gearing up for Chanukah. Please send your news and holiday photographs to congress@csjo.org.

Speaking of Chanukah, we happen to have a great card that you can send to family and friends. We are selling them for $4.00 U.S. for a pack of six cards and that includes postage! Please contact me directly at congress@csjo.org with your order and I will be happy to send them to you. The picture below is the front of the card with the inside text.

As I mentioned previously, CSJO is now a member organization of the Secular Coalition for America. On October 27, it announced our membership in a press release that you can access by clicking here. Please spend some time on the site and go back to it periodically. Let me know which issues it presents that are most important to you.

I had the wonderful opportunity to join the International Institute of Secular Humanistic Judaism for its "Jewish, Secular and Humanistic American: Learning Tour of Philadelphia." There were 35 participants from a wide variety of cities; Chicago, Raliegh, Kansas City, to name a few, and there were a few locals as well, of course. We began each day with an informative introduction given by Rabbi Adam Chalom and then were off to begin our explorations. The first day we toured three historic synogugues and finished off with a wonderful Shabbat program and meal. We continued the weekend with a walking tour, a museum visit and historic sites in Philadelphia. There was lively discussion, time to meet new people and expand our knowledge. What a delightful weekend. There was an article printed prior to the weekend in the Jewish Exponent, a Philadelphia weekly paper. It will give you a bit more information. If you would like to read it, click here. There are plans to tour another location in two years. I highly recommend you consider participating. I know I will.

Another exciting happening is our work with the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism to jointly publish an eBook. CSJO chose "Pushcarts and Dreamers." This is a compilation of Yiddish short stories selected and translated by Max Rosenfeld. The 10 authors featured in this book give us a first hand view of immigrant life. It should be available on Amazon in a few weeks. Some of you might prefer a hard copy. If that is the case, please contact me at congress@csjo.org as we have copies available.

I must sign off now to prepare for our Board Meeting. I am looking forward to seeing the wonderful volunteers on our Board and collaborating with them to continue our journey together.

Until next month, zayt gezunt (be well)!

Terry Waslow
Executive Director, CSJO

New Year, New Acting Chair

By Sarah Waslow-Washington, Active Chair, CSJO

As I enter in to my third month as acting chair, I have taken the time to reflect. The November board meeting will be happening in two weeks and I am excited to see the ideas come to life that have been coming up over the past couple of months. We have recently been announced in a press release from the Secular Coalition for America as their newest member -- exciting! We also launched a CSJO Board Facebook profile. While it is slow to start, it is starting. It would be great to see it gain more friends and responses on our page. 

While this may not seem like a lot, for me, someone who has been a member of CSJO for 16 years, has been the vice chair for the past eight years and now is acting chair, this is progress. Seeing the changes, no matter how small, are monumental in my eyes. I look forward to more positive progression and change for our organization within the coming year.

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.