Detroit Jewish News July 4, 2003 edition with Rabbi Sherwin Wine on the cover.

The front page of the July 4, 2003, issue of the JN featured only one big image, that of Rabbi Sherwin Wine. And I was intrigued, especially because once I dove inside that issue, I found a lengthy five-page story on the founder of Humanistic Judaism.

I knew that Wine founded a branch of Judaism and that he was rabbi at the Birmingham Temple, but that was about it. The story about Wine in the JN is really comprehensive, to say nothing of the 1,469 other pages in the Davidson Digital Archives that are cited from a search using his name. The article was published when Wine retired in 2003, which was also the 40th anniversary of Humanistic Judaism.

Detroit Jewish News July 4, 2003 edition with Rabbi Sherwin Wine on the cover.

Wine was born and raised in a Conservative Jewish home in Detroit and, as a child, attended services at Congregation Shaarey Zedek. “My father observed Shabbat and I went to services because he went — and I loved being with him …” Wine graduated from Detroit’s Central High and then earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan (where his personal papers reside at the Bentley Historical Library). Wine also stated, “I grew up in intensely anti-Semitic times” and “I was very much aware of my Jewish identity.”

Wine became a most controversial rabbi. By all accounts, he was a deep thinker and, whether one liked his ideas or not, Wine was a respected figure in Metro Detroit. Humanistic Judaism now has branches around the world, and the Birmingham Temple is still operating at the same location since 1971.

The history of Sherwin Wine, like those of many other renowned rabbis from Detroit, such as Morris Adler or Leo M. Franklin, deserve more than a few words in this column. You’ll find plenty more to read on Wine and many other rabbis, temples and congregations in the Davidson Digital Archives.

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Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at

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