Denise Handlarski is the rabbi of SecularSynagogue.com, an online community for Jews and those who wish to hang out with Jews. Rabbi Denise is also the rabbi at the Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Toronto.
She serves people who are Jewish, Jew-ish, secular, agnotic, atheist, spiritual but not religious, or culturally Jewish. She is an ordained rabbi through the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism and a member of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis. She is licenced to perform life cycle events including wedding ceremonies, funerals and memorials, baby namings, and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.
Humanistic Judaism has a focus on how Jewish identity can bring meaning to our lives and deepen our experiences of our relationships, our communities, and our world. Denise’s particular focus is on “Tikkun Olam,” or repairing the world, and how Jewish culture encourages ethical behaviour. Delighting in and reflecting human creativity, intellect, and emotion, Denise creates ceremonies that inspire those being celebrated and in attendance.
Denise delights in performing Humanistic wedding ceremonies, with or without Jewish content. Celebrating couples of all cultures, sexual orientations, and genders, Denise can create a ceremony that reflects the beliefs and values of the couple. Custom wedding ceremonies ensure that couples participate in the creation of their ceremony, and tailor it so that it reflects their views, their lives, their love for one another.
Becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is traditionally the Jewish time of entering adulthood. Denise helps guide the individual through a program of Jewish learning including history and literature, tzedakah (charity/justice) projects, and cultural engagement. The main focus of the ceremony will be a research project on a Jewish topic and/or a Torah (Hebrew Bible) reading and analysis.
The goal of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony is to mark the inheritance of Jewish wisdom and cultural values. A Humanistic Bar or Bat Mitzvah ensures a program of study and a ceremony that reflect the individual and his or her cultural identification, an inspiring look at what it means to be Jewish today, and a celebration of cultural history and community.
Denise also specializes in women’s Bat Mitzvahs – at any age. Given the exclusionary nature of many streams of traditional Judaism, many adult women have never marked their own inheritance of Jewish culture. Denise can create a meaningful and inspiring program for individual women looking to assert and celebrate their place in Jewish tradition.
Celebrating the birth of a child is a joyful and wonderful occasion. A baby naming is a way of celebrating with community, and honouring the newborn child and their family. Whether a couple chooses to have a ritual circumcision or not, a baby naming ceremony adds an element of Humanistic celebration and is a way of publically welcoming a child into their Jewish identity and community.
Denise will work with the family to create a ceremony that reflects the family and their cultural backgrounds, values, and traditions.
Funerals and Memorials
Death is a difficult time for a family. While traditional Jewish funerals have always provided means for mourners to find solace, a Humanistic funeral allows for flexibility in the aspects of Jewish tradition that are included. Always with a focus on aiding mourners in their grief, and in honouring the life of the deceased, Denise will work with you to create a ceremony that is respectful and reflective of the person being honoured.
Other rabbinic services
Denise also provides programming in the Jewish community such as for holidays, Jewish education, young adult community-building, and Holocaust remembrance. If you wish for Denise to speak or lead a program at your organization or community, please get in touch.