Atheist talk at the G.A. draws ire

BOSTON — A plan to host a Humanistic Judaism event at the United Jewish Communities' General Assembly this week in Atlanta has drawn heat.

The event, which was set for Wednesday, was a class called "Humanistic Judaism: A Powerful Alternative for Cultural Jews."

The G.A., which drew about 5,000, also scheduled religious programs for the week, including Conservative and Orthodox services.

Robert Lappin of the Boston area, who has given $5 million to the federation movement over the last 10 years, called the decision to allow the group into the G.A. inappropriate and described the group as a form of "godless Judaism."

He added, "They just as well might have a session on Jews for Jesus or Messianic Jews. The [UJC] is out of control."

Irwin Hochberg, campaign chairman of Israel Bonds and past president of UJA-Federation New York, also expressed outrage.

"If it's true that they are planning a session for two hours to present an atheistic religion as an alternative to Judaism, then they have to have their heads examined."

Rabbi Sherwin Wine, who founded Humanistic Judaism, planned to use the two-hour class to give an overview of the group, which has close to 30,000 adherents, mostly in the United States.

"In the century of the Holocaust it is hard to believe that we live in a world [where] some wonderful power is taking care of us," he said. "What we learn from Jewish history is that in the end we have to take care of ourselves and others."