Cantor Jonathan Friedmann, Ph.D.
Jonathan is a leading voice in Humanistic Judaism and renowned scholar of Jewish music. He has been leading congregational services and directing and teaching in Jewish educational programs throughout the Los Angeles area for over a decade. Jonathan has published hundreds of articles on musicology and the sociology of religion, as well as over a dozen scholarly books. He is an engaging speaker, expert service leader, enthusiastic teacher, outspoken Humanist, proud father, happy husband, and all-around mensch.
Jonathan received Cantorial Ordination and a Masters in Jewish Sacred Music from the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, where he is now Professor of Jewish Music History. He also holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Religious Studies from California State University, Long Beach, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from the joint doctoral program of North-West University and Greenwich School of Theology.
Cantor Friedmann on the Value of Humanistic Jewish Communities
As citizens of modern cities in the modern world, we are accustomed to the voluntariness of social engagement. Unlike previous generations, our basic survival does not depend on cultivating relationships with immediate neighbors or even sustaining relationships with immediate family members. Technological advances and other conveniences have afforded us the option of becoming self-reliant and self-sustaining individuals. No longer are we forced to put up with company we would rather not keep (except perhaps at the workplace and other such settings). Yet, no matter how individualistic we are, we remain social animals. Whether we are aware of it or not, our humanness demands and thrives upon interpersonal interactions. A great benefit of the twenty-first century is that now, more than ever, such interactions can be self-determined.
Humanistic philosopher Bertrand Russell noted this trend in his classic guidebook, The Conquest of Happiness (1930). As in many other areas, Russell was ahead of his time in proposing that friendship based on similar tastes and similar opinions is essential to human happiness. According to Russell, this type of association is especially crucial for unconventional people, whose way of thinking and being contrast with most of the population. By virtue of being different, non-conformists face the specter of loneliness. Without extra effort given to finding likeminded people, they feel simultaneously trapped in and removed from the conformist majority.
The present time is probably the best in history for creating and discovering communities of independent individuals. Social media, transportation and general awareness have advanced to the point that seeking each other is relatively easy—as long as we put in the time and energy. And once we find the community we’re looking for, our word of mouth—that tried-and-true method—is still the best means of expanding it.
This discussion has everything to do with Adat Chaverim. As our name suggests, we are a community of friends. Like true friends, we respect each other’s points of view, support one another, gain fulfillment from our relationships, and share ideas about the world and our place in it. We are all outsiders in a sense: we are not at home in conventional Jewish environments and our beliefs differ from the norm. But we affirm the truth, beauty and virtue that stem from our Humanistic philosophy and our reliance on reason, science and personal choice. Our collective uniqueness makes our bond even stronger.
Read more from Cantor Friedmann at his blog: Thinking On Music