Humanistic Judaism founder Sherwin Wine dies at 79

Wine died Saturday in a car accident in Morocco.

sherwin wine 88 (photo credit: )
sherwin wine 88
(photo credit: )
Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the leader of a worldwide Jewish movement that viewed the religion as a culture rather than a faith, has died. He was 79. Wine, who founded the first congregation of Humanistic Judaism in suburban Detroit in 1963, was killed Saturday in an automobile accident in Essaouira, Morocco, the Society for Humanistic Judaism's Web site said. He and his partner, Richard McMains, were on vacation and were returning from dinner when their taxi was hit by another driver. The cab driver was also killed, and McMains remained hospitalized in stable condition, the Web site said. Wine, who lived in Birmingham, Michigan, founded The Birmingham Temple in 1963 and helped establish the Society for Humanistic Judaism in 1969. He retired in 2003. He built a movement that began with eight Detroit area families into a worldwide one with an estimated 40,000 members. The American Humanist Association selected him humanist of the year for 2003. His death presents a challenge for the movement, said Rabbi Marion Jerris, president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis. "This one is going to be a test," Jerris told the Detroit Free Press for a Sunday story. "The work will go on, but it will be very hard. "He was the most amazing visionary. He gave so many of us a home where we could live our job culture." Wine was born in Detroit on Jan. 25, 1928 and raised by conservative Jewish parents. At the University of Michigan, he received bachelor's and master's degrees in philosophy. He decided to become a rabbi in the Reform sect of Judaism and spent five years at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. In 1998, the movement's leaders were invited to participate in the United Jewish Community, a move that Wine's followers believe validated their movement as Judaism's fifth, joining Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. Wine is the author of books including "Humanistic Judaism," "Judaism Beyond God" and "Staying Sane in a Crazy World." He was writing a book this summer about living a meaningful, moral life without depending on faith for guidance.