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Dedicated To Creating A Caring World

Ethical Humanist Society

hosts open house for all

Deed before creed. It’s an interesting concept based on the idea that a person’s actions are more important than his or her belief system. It’s a central tenet for The Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island (EHSLI), which recently hosted an open house on Sunday, Aug. 25.

The afternoon began with Humanist Religious Director Calvin Dame welcoming members and guests to share their personal milestones, joys, and even recent sorrows. A heartwarming musical performance given by Kelly Tanza, a supporter and soon to be member of EHSLI followed.

“When I came to the Ethical Society decades ago, I felt as if I had found the place to help me live the life I wanted to live,” said Westbury native Lyn Dobrin, a member since 1967 along with her husband Arthur Dobrin. “Fresh out of the Peace Corps, I wanted to continue to be useful on a local and international scale and the teachings and encouragement of the Ethical Society have helped me to do so,” she explained.

One of 25 Ethical Culture societies across the United States, the Garden City chapter was founded in 1950. And just like in its other locations, the EHSLI believes in a non-theistic religious humanist ideology staked on the notion that every human has moral worth and deserves dignity and respect. “Deed before Creed” is a motto the society lives by, initially inspired by movement founder Felix Adler. It was in the late eighteenth century where Adler turned away from becoming a rabbi and instead focused on the importance of ethical values over religious tradition.

EHSLI is non-denominational and has more 100 members from a variety of religious backgrounds ranging from Protestant to Greek Orthodox. Members come from all walks of life, as well as different age groups and ethnicities.

Stacy Leon of Laurelton is a fairly new member, having joined in January and explains why she was drawn to the society.“It gives us a chance to come together with like-minded people, while maintaining a sense of community.”

No Idle Hands Here

Various Sunday programs are held weekly including Sunday meetings and a program for young children as well as teens. The Sunday meetings begin at 11 a.m and are filled with reflection, poetry, singing, musical performances, and guest speakers. The group mostly focuses on enduring ethical issues seen in and around Long Island.

One of the activities done prior to Sunday Meetings is Colloquy,  a favored gathering event for EHSLI members. It is a forum for open discussion on a certain aspect of people’s everyday lives and is executed in a free and non-judgmental environment. Themes are picked for each discussion, such as tolerance, forgiveness, and anger. A question is presented to the group on topics and ethical issues to both educate and inspire leading up to a coffee hour. Members are encouraged to dig deeper into themselves and share feelings, thoughts, and suggestions with each other.

EHSLI allows members of the community break away from longstanding religious traditions, while still having a feeling of support, guidance, and family.

“I wanted my children to be exposed to ideas an ethics that they don’t get from school or church,” says Baldwin’s Lorraine Agostino. “For me, it was the intellectual stimulation and the support of my own belief system. The speakers that we’ve had have spoken on a broad range of topics related to ethical ideas that we support.”

The society also has a number programs for different age groups and motivations. The Kids In Deed program (KID) is a humanist education program for children 5 to 13 held every Sunday. It is held in one-hour sessions that teach the foundation of ethics through volunteer work and community service.

Youth of Ethical Societies (YES) is another group geared for teens that focuses on two major ethical problems they see happening around them that they find interest in.

In the past, YES has participated in volunteer work such as Hurricane Sandy cleanup and also works with local charities and organizations. Recent years also found the group traveling to New Orleans and aiding in the ongoing cleanup of Hurricane Katrina.

Other weekly and monthly events include a movie night and free yoga every Wednesday led by Hempstead’s Silvia Silberger, a Hofstra University mathematics professor. The Diogenes Round Table, was recently created by Garden City resident Liam Stephens, a recent SUNY New Paltz graduate. Round table discussions are based on philosophical ideas while welcoming new theories and unique ideologies.

EHSLI is looking forward to celebrating it’s fourth Darwin Day on Sunday, Sept. 15. The guest speaker will be Massimo Pigliucci, chair of the department of philosophy, at CUNY-Lehman College who’ll be speaking on the topic of “Science, Pseudoscience, and All That Jazz: What’s the Difference, and Why Do We Care?”