Kehilat Kolenu began in the winter of 2012 as a small, informal gathering for Kabbalat Shabbat. Our desire was simple: to create a Friday night service true to its roots - a meaningful, musical celebration of the day of rest.
Over the years, our Kabbalat Shabbat service has evolved into what we believe is one of the most meaningful, uplifting and musical celebrations offered in the community, attracting 80+ participants weekly. We use instruments and voice to bring to life Hebrew music through contemporary folk songs and ancient psalms.
Though the Kabbalat Shabbat service is at our heart, Kehilat Kolenu’s goal extends beyond: to nurture an active Humanistic Jewish community in Melbourne by providing inclusive services for chaggim, shabbat, and Jewish life-cycle events. Today, we are a vibrant community of more than 500 people across all ages and backgrounds.
We believe that a healthy Jewish culture is one that is both dynamic and evolving, and at the core of Jewish expression are the chaggim (Jewish festivals). At Kolenu, we celebrate the core themes and traditions unique to each chag, yet bring them to life through creative, inclusive structures which complement the secular world in which we live.
In 2017, we facilitated celebrations, workshops and services for Tu Bishvat, Pesach, Yom Ha'Shoah and Shavuot, in addition to our largest events of the year during the High Holidays.
It is a longstanding tradition that in the lead up to a Jewish wedding the groom - and in progressive congregations the bride - are given the honour of a call-up to the Torah at their local synagogue. This ceremony is often referred to using the Yiddish word for call-up: "aufruf". Kolenu offers a unique celebration of the aufruf, bringing both families of the marrying couple together for a musical celebration with our congregation at Kabbalat Shabbat. We believe that the couple should have the honour of sharing a message to the community in the Friday night drasha (sermon), drawing upon the weekly Torah portion to express a sentiment related to their special occasion. For more information about the tradition and your options for this event, please see the guide below.
Kolenu also offers celebrations of Bnei Mitzvah, the Jewish rite of passage for a child as they transition to adulthood. While traditionally the Bnei Mitzvah child learns to recite a Hebrew passage from the Torah, our celebration centres upon exploring the themes, ideas and historical lessons of the weekly parsha (Torah portion), helping your child to craft a D'var Torah (presentation) to deliver to our congregation during a Friday night service. Kolenu is also in the process of designing a Bnei Mitzvah educational program to support your child in the lead-up to their humanistic Bnei Mitzvah with us. To find out more, please email us.
Humanistic Judaism embraces a human-centred philosophy that combines rational thinking with a deep connection to the Jewish people and its culture. Humanistic Jews value their Jewish identity and the aspects of Judaism that offer a genuine expression of their contemporary way of life. Humanistic Jews celebrate the Chaggim and Jewish life cycle events with inspirational ceremonies that draw upon yet go beyond traditional symbols and liturgy. For more information, take a look at the books and sources listed on our resources page.
What do Humanistic Jews believe?
- Judaism is the historic and contemporary culture of the Jewish people.
- Jewish history is a human saga, a testament to the significance of human power and responsibility.
- Jewish identity is best preserved in a free, pluralistic environment.
- Ethics and morality should serve human needs.
- The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.
- Each Jew has the right to create a meaningful Jewish lifestyle free from supernatural authority and imposed tradition. Humanistic philosophy affirms that knowledge and power come from people and from the natural world in which they live. Jewish continuity needs reconciliation between science, personal autonomy, and Jewish loyalty.
The secular roots of Jewish life are as important as the religious ones. Judaism is an ethnic culture. It was created by the Jewish people. It was moulded by Jewish experience. Holidays are responses to human events. Ceremonies are celebrations of human development. Music and literature are inspired by human experience.