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Frequently Asked Questions


Humanistic Judaism

What is Humanistic Judaism?
Humanistic Judaism, founded in 1963 by Rabbi Sherwin Wine is an international Jewish movement that offers a meaningful opportunity for people to celebrate Jewish identity and culture consistent with a secular and humanistic philosophy of life. The umbrella organization, the Society for Humanistic Judaism, has more than 10,000 members in 30 congregations throughout North America.
How can a person be Jewish without a firm belief in God?
Membership in the Jewish people is not a function of belief; it is a function of identification, connection, and personal meaning. In fact, according to the 2013 Pew Research Center study of American Jews, they overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people, yet more than two-thirds say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture rather than religion.
Think of it this way: are Adam Sandler and Amy Schumer Jewish? Of course. Do they believe in God? We have no idea, and more important we don’t need to answer the second question to answer the first.
If there’s no prayer, what happens at a Kol Hadash service?
We celebrate our Jewish connections using inspirational and thought-provoking poetry, prose and music. We sing Jewish songs in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish--we always provide translations and transliterations (pronunciation in English letters). We use materials that encourage reflection and meditation while resonating with our Jewish cultural heritage. We celebrate the historic, human, and natural bases for Jewish holidays and mark the passages of life with ceremonies that reflect both Jewish culture and our Humanistic values.
How do you answer children’s questions concerning the concept, figure, and importance of “God”?
Rabbi Adam Chalom developed and published a short essay with six questions and answers that address this question. The essay has two answers to each question, one aimed at children under age 7, and the other aimed at children between ages 8 and 12. Dealing with the “God” Question.

Visiting Kol Hadash

Can I experience Kol Hadash before joining?
Absolutely! We encourage you to attend several of our services, learning opportunities and/or social events to get to know us. Please check out our Upcoming Events and Calendar to find what might be of interest to you--we dont' hold services every Friday night so be sure to check before showing up. We look forward to meeting you!
How long is a typical service?
High Holiday services are no more than 90 minutes (including Yom Kippur!). Shabbat services are a little over an hour. Some Shabbats are more reading and music focused, while others are discussion-based.
What is the dress code?
We are a casual group. For Shabbat services, most people dress the way they would to go out for dinner. For High Holidays, which is our only “dressy-ish” occasion, there is a wide spectrum — some men wear suits and ties, but most wear a sport coat or just a dress shirt; women generally wear dresses, skirts or slacks.


How do I join?
Becoming a member of Kol Hadash is easy!  Just go to the Join Us page. Our Contributing Member model, which allows members to choose their own annual financial commitment, may appeal to you. Or contact our Connections Committee at for more information.
My partner and I come from different religious or cultural heritages. Will my non-Jewish partner feel comfortable?
You will find Kol Hadash is a welcoming place for all members of your family. Everyone, of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, participates equally in our services and programs as they choose. We are also a comfortable home for families raising children connected to multiple heritages--we can provide a meaningful Jewish connection for intercultural families.
Do we have to join as a family or can I join as an individual member?
We do have an individual membership. Or, our unique and innovative Contributing Member model allows you to customize your membership in whatever way fits your circumstances.
Is there a building fund?
No! We rent beautiful, non-denominational space as needed in the North Shore Unitarian Church for our Shabbat and major holiday celebrations, as well as adult education programs and B Mitzvah celebrations. We rent classrooms at Deerfield High School for Sunday School, Hebrew School, and Sunday morning adult education and holiday programs. All of our facilities expenses are covered by membership dues and donations.

High Holidays

Can I attend High Holiday services without becoming a member?
Yes, you are welcome at all of our High Holiday services. There is a cost to attend Adult High Holiday Services on Rosh Hashana evening or morning and Yom Kippur evening or morning, which is applied towards dues if you choose to become a member afterwards.
Our adult Yom Kippur Memorial service and Family High Holiday Services are free.
Do I receive HH tickets with membership?
Yes, admission for members and their children (25 and under) are included with membership. Members can purchase Family Guest tickets at a reduced price to celebrate the holiday together with their parents, siblings or adult children. Sustaining members, who contribute above the Supporting Dues level, receive four free guest High Holiday tickets.
See our High Holidays page for more information.

B Mitzvah

Why do you call it B Mitzvah, instead of Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah?
Consistent with our Humanistic values of gender equality, B Mitzvah is our gender-neutral, non-binary terminology for what is conventionally called Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah. At our actual celebrations, families and students can choose the terminology they prefer; our informational materials strive to be as inclusive as possible.
When does my child have to start school in order to have a B Mitzvah?
We hope that students will begin their Jewish education early, to learn more, to have more positive Jewish experiences, and to feel more comfortably part of our community. We have had students start as late as 4th or 5th grade.
Students attend Hebrew school, one hour a week conveniently following Sunday School in 6th and 7th grades. Our Hebrew curriculum balances the need for Hebrew reading skills with an understanding of Hebrew as a modern, living language.
Can a child with learning disabilities have a B Mitzvah?
Absolutely! Some of the most meaningful B Mitzvahs have been those of our special needs students. All Kol Hadash B Mitzvahs are personal to the students in many ways. Learn more about our unique and meaningful B Mitzvahs, or read this Jewish Telegraphic Agency article about one of our past celebrations.
See our B Mitzvah page for more information.

Sunday School

What does Kol Hadash teach in its school?
Our goal is Jewish cultural literacy and personal empowerment. We teach our children to understand the beliefs and behavior of their ancestors without feeling compelled to agree with the beliefs of the past. We want our children to develop their own convictions honestly–-on the basis of knowledge, not indoctrination. We seek to explore the entire range of Jewish experience, past and present, and to choose what is relevant and meaningful.
What does Kol Hadash Youth Education look like?
All Kol Hadash Youth Education programming is on Sunday Mornings:
SUNDAY SCHOOL & HEBREW LEARNING: We have weekly Sunday School class for Kindergarten through Confirmation. Our classes are: K/1st grade, 2nd/3rd grade, 4th/5th grade, 6th/7th grade, and 8th/9th/10th grade Confirmation. Sunday School is at 9:30-11:30am with the exception of 6th/7th grade students who have Mitzvah Prep Class until 12:00pm. Our 5th grade students have Individual Hebrew Tutoring in half-hour sessions, which are scheduled by parents (either at Sunday School before class or during the week at our Tutor's office).
PARENT-TOT: Preschool Jewish Discovery, our enrichment class for 2-6 year olds with a grown-up, meets monthly -- it is free and open to everyone.
FAMILY PROGRAMS: On many Sundays, our whole school -- students, teachers, and families -- come together to celebrate Jewish holidays as well as for special programs on Jewish culture, community service activities and more.
Can my child attend Kol Hadash’s school if my family is not a member?
No. Enrollment in the school is reserved for children of members.  But we have a unique and innovative membership model that makes it easy and affordable to become a member.
Does Kol Hadash have activities for teenagers?
Yes. We have a vibrant Teen Youth Group for students in 8-12 grades. The Youth Group meets monthly on Sundays during the school year, 11:10 am -1:00 pm. Programming is decided by the group. Some meetings are purely social while others are devoted to community service. Our Youth Group also attends an annual HuJews Teen/Young Adult Conclave with other Humanistic Jewish youth across North America.
Will my LGBTQ+ child feel safe and welcomed in your Sunday School?
Our Sunday School has partnered with Keshet (a national organization that works for the full equality of all LGBTQ+ Jews and their families) to ensure that we are doing everything we can to support our LGBTQ+ students and families.
Can my child "try out" your Sunday School?
Yes. We welcome non-members to join us - there is no expectation of a commitment by coming to this program.
Are you thinking about how to expose your children to Jewish culture and identity? Your family is welcome to ‘try out’ our Sunday School by visiting their grade’s class for the day. Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation holds weekly Sunday School classes for students in Kindergarten through Confirmation. Each class has a well-defined curriculum, covering topics in Jewish history, literature and culture. We encourage children to value their Jewish identity and to think for themselves. Our whole school -- students, teachers, and families -- come together to celebrate Jewish holidays as well as for special programs on Jewish culture, community service activities and more. Click here to register to try out our Sunday School.

The Kol Hadash Community

How many members does Kol Hadash have?
As of 2021, Kol Hadash has 141 member households, divided fairly evenly among families with children, empty-nesters and retirees.
Where do most of Kol Hadash’s members live?
Because Humanistic Judaism is the only full-service Humanistic Jewish congregation in the Chicago area, we have members from 30 different towns in Illinois, including Chicago and most of the northern and northwest suburbs, plus members from as far away as Algonquin and Geneva.
What kind of people join Kol Hadash?
We draw a wide range of people - we joke that we are “like minded people who don’t think alike.” We have members who were raised every variety of Jewish, from very traditional to simply knowing they were from a Jewish family to discovering they had Jewish heritage as an adult. We also have members who were not raised Jewish and became connected to the Jewish family through marriage or through personal affinity with Jewish culture and identity.

We welcome LGBTQIA+ and intercultural/interfaith families, singles and couples, adults without children and families of all ages. You can read more about some of us at our Meet Our Members page.

Rabbi Chalom

Does Rabbi Chalom officiate at non-member life-cycle events?
Yes! Please visit Rabbi Chalom’s blog post on weddings, or call him directly at 847/602-4500, or email him at

More Information

Who should I get in touch with for more information?
Please feel free to contact our administrator, Jeremy Owens, at 847/383-5184,, Rabbi Chalom at 847/383-5184,, or our Connections Committee at
We look forward to talking with you!


Wed, June 12 2024 6 Sivan 5784