2003 Creating & Sharing Jewish Outlooks by Roberta Feinstein
There is a Yiddish expression that goes like this...A mentch trakht un got lakht. I won't translate that exactly, but it does mean the same thing as that famous Scot, Bobby Burns said "The best laid plans of mice and men aft gae astray" And, indeed, plans went astray. Here we are in Philadelphia when we had planned to be in Toronto. Our friends in Toronto worked so hard to develop an interesting, different and enjoyable conference there, but, as you all know, the World Health Organization issued its travel warning about Toronto and the conference was cancelled. We were all dumbfounded. It was shocking to think that CSJO would not have its annual, and 33rd, conference. First, we were in denial... and then we were angry with the World Health Organization and then we were sad. We finally reached that freeing stage of acceptance which led to the creative step of resolution. We resolved to have a conference. Even though we never thought of canceling the conference entirely, we had to decide whether we would have a conference only for teens and young adults or for everyone. This would depend on our venue. And so, the work began, again.
Karen Knecht was the motivator. She urged a number of us to visit sites for a possible conference in Michigan, Cleveland or Philadelphia. Then Karen called the Adephia University office, and we had a site. We are grateful to our Toronto affiliates, UJPO and the Morris Winchevsky Shule for all of their very, very hard work and someday we will be back in Toronto! And to all of you who are here this week-end, thank you for standing with CSJO and to all the Philadelphia people who said "yes"; when asked to help, on such very short notice, we humbly say thank you...you, and all of the people here this week-end, (prove) the word community.
The theme of this year's conference is Creating and Sharing our Jewish Outlook, developed from the CSJO acronym.
CSJO certainly has a history of creating:.. literature, holiday programs, curricula, social action statements, and communities.
Max Rosenfeld led the field in literature. He edited the books Pushcarts and Dreamers, New Yorkish, and his last book, Festivals, Folklore and Philosophy. The stories of Sholem Aleichem, I.L. Peretz,,Chaim Zhitlowsky, to name only a few, were used to develop an understanding of the term secular in relationship to Jewish. These stories, were, and still are, the backbone of a secular Jewish peoplehood.
One of our Philadelphia affiliates, The Sholem Aleichem Club, created and produced music, holiday programs including the Haggadah for a Secular Celebration of Pesach and a marvelous booklet entitled 45 years of Secular Jewish Programming. The Club continues to produce a wonderful newsletter, filled with interesting articles and information about their programs and activities.
Hershl Hartman created books for use in our secular Jewish Sunday schools and shuln. They are, A Guide for the rest of us; the Jewish New Year Festival, The Hanuka Festival , The Sholem Family Hagada and his latest one, The Hidden History of Hanuka for Kids, and adults. Hershl was also part of the team that edited Celebrating Jewish Holidays and on the editorial team for Apples and Honey, a Compendium of Music and Readings for a Secular Humanistic Observance of the Jewish New Year Festival.
Celebrating Jewish Holidays also boasted Judy Seid, as well as Larry Schofer, Bennett Muraskin and Eva Goldfinger on the editorial staff. Judy, Jeff Zolitor and I put together a book of information entitled Community Organizing Handbook. Judy published, through her Kopinvant Press, Kumzits, a festivity of instant Jewish songs, and We Rejoice in Our Heritage, a booklet of Home Rituals for Secular and Humanistic Jews.
Judy's latest book, God-Optional Judaism, was published by Kensington Press and is a much sought-after and successful publication.
After teaching for a number of years in the Jewish Secular Shule of Suffolk County, and not finding much material that reflected the Shule's secular Jewish viewpoint, Joan Kurtz wrote some books herself. She wrote Heroes and Heroines of Jewish Folklore , Joshua to Daniel. Joan also wrote Around and Around , Jewish life-cycle ceremonies. Joan's books are used in many of our schools.
Bennett Muraskin, a member of the New Jersey Jewish Cultural School and Society, and a CSJO board member for many years, has edited a number of publications. He was the catalyst for the republication of the book, "Celebrating Jewish Holidays, An Introduction for Secular Jewish Families and their communities". Bennett also wrote A Yiddish Short Story Sampler which is a guide for Teachers, Parents and Interested Readers. He compiled and edited a Shabbes/Shabbat Celebration book that was published by CSJO. And then, under the auspices of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, Bennett had his book, Humanist Readings in Jewish Folklore, published.
Larry Schofer, besides editing a number of CSJO publications, has been the editor of the CSJO newsletter for many years. He does this job entirely on his own, although he wishes it were different. Larry has changed the format of the newsletter, many times, and each creation has enhanced the reader's experience. This time he sent out an electronic Newsletter!!
Jodi Goldfinger is not only the Straight As An Arrow (SAAA) newsletter editor, but also CSJO's talented and capable webmaster.
Paul Shane,of the Philadelphia Secular Jewish Organization, Susan Lerner, whose mentor was Hershl Hartman of The Sholem community in LA, and I wrote research papers for our vegvayzer/leadership certification through the International Institute. These papers were turned into books, as well as a tape, and are used by both CSJO and Society for Humanistic Judaism communities.
Julie Gales and Pat Martz of the Ann Arbor Jewish Cultural School, after months of hard labor, were the creative editors of the CSJO publication, Apples and Honey.
Abe Arnold from the Winnipeg Branch of UJPO wrote a wonderful book called Judaism, Myth, Legend and Custom; from the Religious to the Secular. It is a well-respected book that dispels with the myth that only religious Jews can truly be called Jews.
Fran Kleiner and Sherm Lebovitz from the Philadelphia Sholem Aleichem club, produced tapes and CD's of Yiddish songs. Rebecca Wave from our affiliate in Santa Barbara produced a CD of even more Yiddish songs.
Many more people, over the years, have created wonderful Holiday celebrations, New Year celebrations, Hanuka programs, wonderful hagadas and important curricula. And the re-editing and updating of these works continue each year. I have cabinets filled with these wonderful programs that are anyone's... just for the asking.
We are talented people in writing, researching and editing. Our ideas are generated through our love for the movement that binds us together. The words, whether our own or someone else's, is what teaches us about who we were and who we are.
Another talent we have is in the creation of new communities. Charles Baron developed his now growing and flourishing Havurah from just a few members in the South Florida region. And we are proud that they are affiliated with CSJO.
Judy Seid probably developed her Havurah after she drove into the driveway of her new home in Baltimore. That community is growing and flourishing and is also a CSJO affiliate.
My newest joy in CSJO is the creation of the Jewish Secular School of Oak Park, IL. A young woman, by the name of Elisa Lapine, created this school. Elisa was a student of mine at the Jewish Secular School of Cleveland...hence the name she chose. Elisa used... the Community Organizing Handbook. She followed every word, including the organization of a communal event... and the first event she planned was a seder. She had hoped people would show up...they did, 77 of them including our own Gerry Revzin who read the Yiddish parts of the hagada which Elisa put together from a variety of our communities' hagadas.
CSJO creates and CSJO shares...we share news of our communities, books that are published by and for our members, curricula that we have written for our schools, adult programs, as well as holiday programs and Bar/Bat/Bas Mitzva ceremonies. We have an active CSJO chat group on the internet and we certainly stay in touch with each other via that medium. Bob Kleiner and Sy Kornblum chaired our social action committee for a number of years. They created viable and meaningful social action statements that was shared with all of our affiliates.
In many cities, Detroit, LA, Philadelphia, Toronto and the NY/NJ area, coalitions have developed which include groups from CSJO, SHJ and WC/AR. These groups work together to promote the idea of Secular Humanistic Judaism . They plan programs and work together to show our movement's strength in their cities. They set an example for other cities in that people working together gives us a stronger voice.
And so you have heard about the talented people who are CSJO members and who share their creations with all of us. CSJO will continue to create and share all that we are. Our aim is to continue growing and offering what we know to those who want to know what we know. And we will continue to grow. We will share the needs of our communities with each other in our continuing search for answers, for that is the Jewish way.. We are a hard-working group of people who will continue our work with our home communities as we will continue our work this week-end, here in Philadelphia.