Humanistic Jewish rituals enable us to speak about our beliefs, to connect to our community, to reflect on and respond to the challenges of personal commitment, and to embrace our individual and historic family and cultural traditions. In our community, rituals mark the life cycle, the turning of the years, and the routines of the week. Our rituals are conducted in English, the language we all share, and include easy to understand, read, and recite expressions in two of our people’s historical languages – Hebrew and Yiddish. We include songs that are familiar to many and easy to learn by all. Most of all, our celebrations are participatory. All are welcome to read in turn, respond in chorus, and sing out!
Shabbat and Havdalah
Kahal Chaverim hosts Shabbat services in Morris County, Essex County, Bergen County, Somerset County, and Union County, New Jersey. Kahal Chaverim members volunteer to host Shabbat at their homes, and the services consist of a 30-minute Shabbat service followed by a pot-luck dessert and time to catch up with fellow Kahal Chaverim members. Adults, children, and guests are welcome at our northern New Jersey Shabbat services.
Click here to view our calendar and see when our next Shabbat service is.
The essence of Shabbat is deeply compatible with our humanistic Judaism philosophy: to create a special moment in time when we set aside the work of our daily lives and rejuvenate our spirit for the week ahead. Each Shabbat celebration is different, although the structure for each Shabbat service is similar. Included as regular components of our services are:
Songs from traditional Jewish sources (sometimes updated to more appropriately express our humanistic values).
Modern, contemporary music in English, Hebrew and Yiddish.
Meditational literature drawing on the works of great thinkers throughout history that helps us focus, define our philosophy, and strengthen the bonds with our congregation.
A memorial and candle lighting that allow us to remember our loved ones and honor those who have influenced our lives.
Other content as determined by our host family and ceremonial leader.”
Kahal Chaverim has a thriving B’Nai Mitzvah program that builds upon our students’ Sunday School education and culminates in a Bar or Bat Mitzvah that is meaningful to them and their family. Our pre-Mitzvah class, which is led by our ceremonial leader, prepares our students for their B’Nai Mitzvah after they have demonstrated that they have achieved certain competencies consistent with our Humanistic Jewish values and that reflect the high standards we use to define “responsible young adult” in our community. The requirements include guided exercises in ethical problem-solving, a significant social action project, a research project related to Humanistic Judaism, and a gratitude essay. The B’nai Mitzvah students articulate their values and present to the younger children in the Sunday School. They also write and lead a class Shabbat or Havdalah service.
Research projects completed by Kahal Chaverim youth have included such topics as:
- A study of Rabbi Sherwin Wine, founder of Humanistic Judaism
- Interfaith families
- Non-Jews responsible for saving the lives of Jews during the Holocaust
Examples of B’Nai Mitzvah Social Action projects are included on our Social Action page.
Sukkot is one of the traditional autumn harvest holidays, and each year we enjoy gathering as a community for apple picking at a local orchard, or building a Sukkah at one of our members’ homes.
Our annual Hanukkah party is a great time for all. Highlighted by craft projects for the kids, a community candle lighting, and plenty of fresh latkes, jelly donuts, and other treats, our Hanukkah celebration is always a great kick off to the holiday season. Hanukkah skits prepared and performed by the Sunday School classes are always a hit.
Our annual Purim Party is great fun for adults and grownups. We have plenty of games and prizes for the kids, a retelling of the Purim story by our ceremonial leader, and Purim shpiels or musical performances by the Sunday School. Kids are encouraged to dress in costume and participate in a costume parade. We always have bagels and coffee, as well as a Kahal Chaverim tradition – the hamantaschen contest. Participants bring their own hamantashen and compete for prizes in categories such as: Best Sweet, Best Savory, and Most Creative.
We observe by reading from a Humanistic Haggadah that blends the traditional Passover story and rituals with stories of our modern struggles for freedom from oppression, in order to make Passover a more meaningful celebration for Humanistic Jews.
Life Cycle Events
Rob is licensed to perform weddings in all jurisdictions and is available to perform life-cycle events for non-members of Kahal Chaverim as well as members.