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Friday, September 21, 2018 6:36 pm

SecularSynagogue.com hopes to connect Jews to culture and community

TORONTO – As individuals and families increasingly balance work, social commitments, and competing interests both online and offline, traditional activities — including worship in religious institutions — are being left behind. But according to a recent Angus Reid Institute survey, people still want spirituality in their lives: just 19% claim to be non-believers, while 30% say they are privately faithful and 30% are spiritually uncertain.

SecularSynagogue.com, an online community launching this fall, aims to reach these people and help them integrate spirituality into their lives on a regular basis by bringing spiritual and cultural lessons into homes instead of requiring people to go out to congregations. Members of the online secular synagogue will have access to a website featuring materials for do-it-yourself Shabbat and High Holidays celebrations, parenting resources, and include Jewish scavenger hunts. A private Facebook group will offer members the opportunity to interact with the community through challenges, opportunities for joint social justice work, interviews with experts and thinkers on a range of topics, and video-based Jewish learning.

“With SecularSynagogue.com, my aim is to build a modern congregation that recognizes the challenges of our fast-paced world, but also gives people the spiritual guidance they still crave,” says Rabbi Denise Handlarski, who trained in the Secular Humanistic Judaism movement that positions Judaism through the lens of a human-centered understanding of the world.

“There are so many different types of Jews and Jewish families today: Cultural Jews, those who are spiritual but not religious, couples where only one person is Jewish, and those who are atheist but still seek a spiritual community. SecularSynagogue.com will welcome all these people. And we’ll do it online, so people can get their daily dose of spiritual wisdom whenever and wherever they are,” she says. SecularSynagogue.com will begin accepting members on Sept. 1, in advance of Rosh Hashanah.

While interaction, teachings and resources will be primarily web-based,  Handlarski says membership will include some opportunities for in-person connection.

Membership to the online community will be $18 a month or $180 per year.

Information may be obtained from Handlarski at  416-854-0133.

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