Machar

Our Congregation

Machar is a welcoming and diverse community founded on Humanistic ideals and dedicated to enhancing Jewish cultural identity. Our congregation believes that Judaism encompasses far more than an ancient religion. It is a complete and vibrant culture with a rich history, an evolving ethical outlook, languages, music, literature, and folk traditions. We see the Jewish people as an international family with a diverse and continually changing culture. We see reason rather than faith as a guide to understanding, and human will and intelligence as the forces that guide human destiny.

Rabbi Nehama Benmosche headshot 2014

Rabbi Nehama Benmosche began serving Machar in April 2014.

“Machar” is the Hebrew word for “tomorrow.” Our congregation, founded in 1977, develops and conducts services for Jewish holidays and life-cycle milestones that clearly express our secular and humanistic outlook, teaches our children in our Jewish Cultural School to value their Jewish heritage and to have respect for all peoples, and participates in a variety of social action and community service activities that transform our philosophy into reality. In addition, we publish a monthly newsletter and have a variety of social, cultural, and educational activities for members of all ages and interests. We are part of the national and international Secular Humanistic Judaism movement through our affiliation with the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

Principles of Machar

The basic principles upon which our Congregation is founded are as follows:

  • We promote Jewish identity through ceremonial, cultural, and educational activities.
  • We find spiritual satisfaction in the secular celebration of Jewish holidays, study and discussion of Jewish and broader human issues, and action for social justice.
  • We believe that people determine the conduct of their own lives, and must take full responsibility for their behavior.
  • We believe that only people can solve human problems. We do not use worshipful or prayer-like language or invoke the name of any deity or supernatural force in our rituals or services.
  • In resolving ethical dilemmas, whether personal or social, we seek solutions that respect the dignity and self-esteem of every human being.

An example of how we view the Torah is represented by this D’Var Torah analysis by Machar’s Jewish Cultural School Director, Debby Brennan.

History of Machar

Rabbi Sherwin Wine had created quite a stir in 1963 when he openly declared that he would lead a non-theistic Jewish congregation in the Detroit area. He was leaving Reform Judaism to found the Birmingham Temple which would practice a new form of Judaism he called “Humanistic Judaism.”

When Jules Abrams and Mary Perica, two dedicated members of the Birmingham Temple, moved from Michigan to the Washington, DC area, they set to work to start a similar group here. In December 1977, they rented a hall at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington and people from around the area came to hear Rabbi Sherwin Wine articulate his highly unorthodox message that one can find fulfillment in a form of Judaism that does not require compromising one’s rational, naturalistic understanding of the universe.

Soon Jules and Mary were joined in their effort by others who would work with them through the following decades to build the congregation that grew out of this first public meeting. This included Ann and Harold Black, Henrietta Wexler, and Joe and Millie Goodman. The congregation celebrated Jewish holidays, organized a Sunday School for children, initiated adult education programs, and involved itself in social action and community service activities.

As Machar grew, a new generation took on the responsibilities of leadership, but the principles did not change and the dynamism remained undiminished. In 2001, Rabbi Binyamin Biber became the rabbi of our congregation, serving in this role until June 2013.  Rabbi Nehama Benmosche began serving Machar in April 2014. Today, Machar is thriving and an established part of the larger Jewish and Humanist communities.

Partner Organizations

Jews United for Justice
Secular Coalition for America
J Street
United Coalition of Reason