September Dialogue – Non-Belief and Non-Believers

On the afternoon of September 18, 2016, JIDS will hold our first ever dialogue on the topic of “Non-Belief and Non-Believers.” The session will be held at the Muslim Community Center, 15200 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD, from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m.   Whether you are a believer who is concerned about why more and more Jews, Muslims and others are turning away from the concept of God, or a non-believer who is frustrated with the unwillingness of interfaith groups to address the growing trend towards non-theism, this session is for you.

Our dialogue will involve presentations by three area leaders, followed by a short Q&A, and then small group discussions. Our speakers will include: Gideon Amir, a highly-respected educator in Jewish studies who considers himself very much a Jew, but a non-believer; Larry Lawrence, who is a leader in the Jewish-Humanistic movement (a non-theistic movement); and Imam Haytham Younis, who will discuss different Muslim views concerning non-belief and non-believers.  JIDS veteran Sabir Rahman will moderate the panel discussion.

Below, you’ll find additional information about our speakers. But remember, JIDS dialogues are not spectator sports. We will provide plenty of time for participation by everyone in attendance.

Gideon Amir was born to Holocaust survivors and grew up in Jerusalem. After high school, he served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and his Master’s degree in Computer Science, he moved from Israel to the United States, where he worked as a computer scientist and manager for various companies. In 2001, he received a Master’s Degree in Judaic Studies at Baltimore Hebrew University. In recent years, Gideon has re-directed his passion for teaching from computer science to Bible subjects at various adult education institutes, including area synagogues, churches and other adult education outlets.

Larry Lawrence has been involved with Secular Humanistic Judaism for the past twenty years. From 2014-16, he served as the President of the Society of Humanistic Judaism, the congregational arm of the Humanistic Jewish movement in North America.  He is also a long-time member of Machar, a local Humanistic Jewish congregation.  As a non-theist, Larry appreciates humanistic Judaism for embracing a human-centered philosophy that combines rational thinking with a deep connection to the Jewish people and culture.  He believes that this form of Judaism integrates the celebration of Jewish identity with the belief in using human reason and human power as the best vehicle for improving the world.

Imam Haytham Younis is an American Muslim of Syrian descent. A professional architect by trade, Haytham has also had a wide range of experiences as a student of Islam and a Muslim leader. From 1983 to 1990, he worked for the Islamic Society of North America and served as a member of its Speakers’ Bureau. From 1990 to 2002, he studied Arabic and Islamic Law at the Islamic University of Medinah. Since then, in addition to pursuing his duties as a professional architect, he has co-founded JIDS and has been involved in various other interfaith projects, prison-outreach efforts, and activities supporting the DC-area Muslim community.