Old Wine Fermenting

Letter From Waterford

One New Age guru still on a roll is Rabbi Sherwin Wine. Twenty-three years ago, before his rise, he was an unbelieving rabbi without a congregation. Known for his willingness to violate Talmudic law by marrying Jews to gentiles, this fall Wine became co-chairperson of the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews. At the Birmingham Temple, Wine's congregation in Farmington Hills, Michigan, the synod fulfilled his dream of receiving emotional support and legitimacy from his soulmates around the world. The conference, wrote Wine in the December 1986 Jewish Humanist, confirmed that the philosophy of the Birmingham Temple was not a bizarre local phenomenon but a movement supported by an international gallery of celebrities, from Haim Cohn to Amos Oz.

Since secular humanism usually disguises itself as a neutral science, the candor of Wine's movement appealed to the Peeping Tom in me. Hanukkah was a day away, providing an opportunity to view Wine conducting a godless holiday service that I could not pass up. I rang up the temple for service times and was told that the building would be closed for the holidays. The congregation ministers to the "mid-winter travel plans of various members." I bided my time reading Wine's book, Judaism Beyond God, as well as his other publications, until the tanned brethren returned.

I discovered that the godless religion rejects prayer and worship:...

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