The Kehilla's Secular Rosh Hashanah Observance.
Kehilla For Secular Jews In The Delaware
Six Jewish Organizations Unite
-- Larry Angert
The Philadelphia region is home to thousands of Jews who identify themselves as being both Jewish and secular. Six of the area's secular
Jewish organizations recently affiliated to form a regional Kehilla for Secular
Jews. These groups share their organizational calendars, attend each others' events, and enrich
each others' Jewish experience. Each group has it's individual
history, emphasizing various aspects of Jewish life. Our differences are small and are outweighed by our shared love of Jewish culture and
I thought I was the only one!
As a long-time member and Secretary of one of these groups (Shir Shalom), I've heard the same thing again and again from people who
contact us. They say, "I thought I was the only one!" They often express joy and relief to know that they are not alone in
their secular relationship to their Jewishness.
Secular Jews may feel marginalized in the larger Jewish community. But the Jewish tent is big, and there's room for all of us in it.
Unaffiliated Jews who are not intellectually comfortable with
traditional denominations may find the Jewish community and fellowship that they seek in a secular Jewish organization. The Kehilla for
Secular Jews includes six of them, so come and explore!
While many readers will be familiar with some of these organizations, others are less well known. Here is a brief description of the
Kehilla's member groups (in decreasing order of the organizations' ages).
- Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring
Created a century ago by immigrants as a mutual aid society, the organization became known for building bonds of support and community.
WC/AR branches formed across North America, providing communities of fellowship and a visionary safety net of health and education services, aiding Jewish families throughout the life cycle. Hundreds
of thousands of Jews have a historic link to The Workmen's Circle. Chances are your family does too.
- Jewish Children's Folkshul
For over 80 years, Folkshul has offered an alternative approach to adults and families who want to enhance their Jewish cultural identity with all-ages education and a vibrant community. Our members live in
Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery counties, and New Jersey. Folkshul's mission is to transmit the values of social justice
and human responsibility in an environment that nourishes critical thinking and provides a strong sense of Jewish identity. Folkshul is
cultural, not religious. Folkshul classes meet Sunday mornings at the Springside School in Chestnut Hill.
- The Sholom Aleichem Club
Funded in 1954, the Sholom Aleichem Club presents monthly programs of Jewish cultural, literary, and musical import and special programs for
Passover and Rosh Hashanah. (Website,
- PSJO (Philadelphia Secular Jewish Organization)
The PSJO, which is an affiliate of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations, is a group of adults who meet once a month for
educational and social purposes. The meetings focus on elements of the historical, cultural, and ethical aspects of Jewishness. The group
also participates in the Kehilla for Secular Jews' communal observances of Rosh
Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Holocaust, and has an annual Seder. (Email)
- Shir Shalom (A Community for Secular Humanistic Judaism)
Affiliated with the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ), Shir Shalom was formed in 1998 as the first Delaware Valley affiliate of the SHJ.
Humanistic Jews believe that Judaism is defined by the entire culture and history of the Jewish people, and that we have the power and
responsibility to shape our own lives, independent of supernatural authority. We celebrate Shabbat, the festivals, and life-cycle events
with song, poetry, and joy, without mouthing prayers that we do not believe.
(Website, email, phone
- SJSJ (South Jersey Secular Jews)
A recently formed organization for those interested in learning about and celebrating Jewish culture, history, and humanist ideals. Lively
discussion and potluck dinners occur once a month at various homes in South Jersey.
(email, phone 856-795-9260)
Past Networking Central Groups of the Month
In this section, we highlight a new local group each month in order to encourage networking.