Rabbi Explains the Beliefs and Nuances of Humanistic Judaism; A Jacksonville Group of Humanistic Jews Holds Its First Meeting Tonight

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Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

What's newsworthy about Miriam Jerris' visit to the First Coast today isn't that she's a female rabbi. It's that she's a rabbi who won't tell you if she believes in God.

"The belief or non-belief in God is a tricky thing," Jerris said. "There is no evidence to prove or disprove the existence of a personal God."

Jerris is the rabbi of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, a Michigan-based organization with about 30 communities and roughly 10,000 adherents around the world. She's in town for tonight's inaugural meeting of a newly formed group in Jacksonville.

The Times-Union spoke with Jerris by phone prior to her visit.

What is humanistic Judaism?

Humanistic Judaism is an approach to Jewish identity that celebrates Judaism as the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people. ... Most people would say Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. We expand that definition to include the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people.

So does that mean you're Jews who don't believe in God?

It actually doesn't mean that. ... Let's just say that given the lack of evidence, we choose to celebrate what we know. And what we know about is the human condition. What we appreciate and value is our Jewish identity. So we want to participate in the Jewish community. We want to celebrate the Jewish holidays. If we have some kind of a life event - a death in the family, a marriage - we want to commemorate and celebrate those events in a Jewish context.

OK, so you're agnostic Jews? …