Rabbi Sherwin Wine founded the entire Humanistic Jewish
movement in 1963 when he left the Reform Movement to found the Birmingham Temple in suburban Detroit, the first congregation
of Humanistic Judaism.
He was very aware that he was merely giving organizational form to a way of life and method
of thought that stretched back over one hundred years. Unlike the Unitarian ministers who helped found the American Humanist
Association, he decided to create local, national, and international organizations that truly represent the special role of
Humanistic Judaism in the lives of the Jewish people. He refused to follow all of the wishes of those humanistic Jews who
wanted to avoid the creation of congregations and organizations. As with the rest of the humanist movement, he agreed that
those humanistic Jews who actively wanted to avoid congregations should be recognized as a part of the movement of Humanistic
Judaism, but he did not allow their concerns to prevent him from developing the organizations that they did not want to help
Rabbi Sherwin Wine had a particularly clear vision of the nature of Humanistic Judaism and its relationship
to the traditional ways of thinking among the Jewish people. Rather than being concerned about the theistic leanings of Jews
outside of Humanistic Judaism, he satisfied himself with explaining to both humanistic and non-humanistic Jews the areas of
agreement and disagreement between these two points of view. He coined a new word: "ignostic" to represent a non-atheistic
point of view that is very humanistic, but declares that science does not allow us to remove our "ignorance" about
the existence of God, since the concept of God is not scientifically disprovable.
Rabbi Sherwin Wine was very aware
that Humanistic Judaism is not a single way of thought, but rather a range of ways of thinking that are all outside of the
ranges of thought of the other branches of Judaism. He gave voice to all of these ways of thinking, showing that the differences
between them are much smaller than with the other branches of Judaism, but acknowledging that humanists will not agree on
all philosophical points. He understood the value of bringing all of the Humanistic Jews together so they could explain their
way of life to each other and to the rest of the world, and further develop this line of thought.
Rabbi Sherwin Wine
did not mind that many humanists did not want to build a new world-wide organization to support Humanistic Judaism, since
he knew that humanists are painfully aware of the true size of such a task. Now that we have experienced the over 50 years
of work in organizing world-wide Humanistic Judaism given to us by Rabbi Sherwin Wine, we now see that the remaining work,
although still monumental, can move forward even without the level of commitment shown by Rabbi Sherwin Wine.
the many organizations founded by Rabbi Sherwin Wine is the International Federation for Secular & Humanistic Judaism.
We mourn his tragic and too-early death in a car accident in 2007. It is a tribute to his leadership that numerous people
have stepped forward to carry on his work in all of the organizations that he founded.
The Society for Humanistic
Judaism has even more information about Rabbi Sherwin Wine.