The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture is an ethics-centered community. We hold that ethical living is life’s central concern. We understand that personal growth and social action are part of the ethical life, and that deeper ethical development comes through interacting with others in community.We welcome you to explore our community, and if you would like to become part of the community by joining as a member, you’ll find inside more information and an application.If you have questions about the Society, its principles and values, or about membership, feel free to contact our Clergy Leader or our Outreach Coordinator
We look forward to getting to know you and personally welcoming you our society. We are an intentionally inclusive community that welcomes people of all races, religious backgrounds, ages, cultural origins, and sexual orientations. We are a freethinking, humanist community, focusing on human responsibility for human problems, using reason and compassion.
It is the women, men, youth, and children of who make this place alive and vibrant. Your involvement is invited, we would love to have the opportunity to welcome you to. We are a completely voluntary organization.The energy and resources of this community are what members, past and present, have contributed and continue to contribute.
We suggest that you spend some time with us before joining, visiting at a few Sunday platform meetings and staying around to talk with others. Take part in some activities: events, classes, social justice and fun activities.Come to the occasional welcome session that we hold after a Sunday platform meeting for informal questions and answers about the Society. Visit with one or more of our committees or action groups to see how the community is organized.
Benefits of membership
Who can join?
How does the Society sustain itself?
Responsibilities of membership
– Members participate actively in the life of the Society. We hope that every member will attend platforms as their lives permit, and attend some of the other social and educational events that are part of Society life.
– Democratic decision-making: we hope that members participate as often as they are able in our semi-annual Member Meetings, and in occasional member forums for information and input. At Member Meetings we vote on Board members, our annual budget, major proposals, and any changes to our by-laws or constitution.
– Committees, board, task forces, specific volunteer tasks: while we have staff at BSEC for some functions, we cannot sustain our Society without volunteers. Start small, with something time-limited, and consider contributing your time and energy some years in helping the Society self-govern.
– A financial contribution, with an annual pledge to help us balance our budget.
What does it cost to join?
How do I join?
Ethics for Children graduates are automatically accepted for membership, provided they complete a written application.
Programs of the Society fall under three Committees:
activities where we join with other Ethical Societies, and child care during major events.
peace, climate justice.
member of the Society.
These committees exist to help in the administration of key programs of the Society:
connecting members and friends of the Society, and caring for members.
oversees other Sunday scheduling on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Recommends to staff and the board major and minor improvements to and maintenance of our physical home and garden area.
Oversee our financial health and well-being.
Works with staff / Society relationships, evaluates staff performance.
BSEC Caring Communication Guidelines
In 1876 Felix Adler founded the Ethical Culture Movement which proclaimed a vision of humanity united in common concern for ethical values. Our Ethical Societies are fellowships of people who seek a clarification of the values of life and a faith to live by. We cherish freedom of the mind and freedom of conscience. We assert the autonomy of ethics while we tolerate a plurality of philosophies.
Meetings of the Brooklyn Society began in 1905, formally organized with Leslie Sprague as leader in 1906, and incorporated on March 30, 1907. Ralph Jonas, a prominent Brooklyn attorney who had attended the New York Society, was a leader among the lay members that started the new group and was also a founder of Long Island University and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. In 1922, Leader Henry Neumann and his wife Julie founded Brooklyn Ethical Culture School.
We believe all individuals have inherent worth and dignity, the potential to grow and change, a responsibility to strive for ethical growth, and a responsibility to create a better world.As an Ethical Community we are all part of something that transcends the individual experience and are enriched through our relationships with others. As such, we have responsibilities to each other, to the Society, and to the community.
We affirm and promote the following principles which are integral to our Ethical Movement:
Every person has inherent worth; each person is unique.We affirm the dignity and worth of all human beings, however different their abilities or backgrounds. Worth is independent of the idea of value. Value is dependent upon the contribution a person makes to society while worth exists independent of productivity. From the idea of universal human worth follows the right of every person to food, shelter, clothing, health, safety, education, work, play, respect, and affection. Every person is unique and different, and the development of each person is related to nurturing his/her distinct qualities and talents.
It is our responsibility to improve the quality of life for ourselves and others.We connect personal and social ethics by recognizing the principle of reciprocity in human relations. We affirm that any action which brings out the distinctive worth in others brings out the distinctive worth in one’s self; also, any action which demeans others demeans one’s self.
Ethics are derived from human experience. Many religions locate the source of ethics in god-given commandments. We find its source in the human condition. What is right or wrong, good or bad is so because it fosters the development of what is best in life. Human intelligence and feelings are the sources and human experience is the sanction of ethics. We grow ethically by increasing our capacity for bringing out the best in others and ourselves. This process begins in the family and extends into friendships and local community and reaches out in relationship to the global human community.
Life is sacred, interrelated and interdependent.Life is a great, mysterious gift. We affirm our respect for the interdependent web of existence, of which we are all a part. It is our commitment to the goal of a world community with peace, liberty, justice and loving-kindness for all.
“Always act so as to elicit the best in others, and thereby yourself.” This phrase is as close to a commandment as you will find in Ethical Culture. An extension of the Golden Rules found in most World Religions, filtered by the ethical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the phrase embodies Felix Adler’s belief that spiritual perfection was possible (if it was possible at all) only through direct moral engagement with other human beings.
We are never isolated from human society, and the effects of our actions always has an impact, great or small, positive or negative, on the lives of others, and theirs on us in return. And so by helping to lift others to a higher level of moral awareness, we also lift ourselves.
Merely doing unto others as we would have them do to us ignores the unique situation of every human being. What we would have done unto ourselves is probably the wrong thing to do unto someone else. By acting so as to elicit the best, we allow others the freedom to make their own ethical choices.
As a member of the Brooklyn Society of Ethical Culture, I choose:
to ascribe good intentions to others regardless of their perspective.
to listen with respect and refrain from engaging in blaming language.
to speak for myself and from my own experience
to hold to any meeting agreements that the group makes
to use descriptive, not judgmental or inflammatory language
to place principals before personalities to criticize issues but not people
to refrain from using the Internet or email to address interpersonal or inter group conflicts and instead to address concerns in face to face communications
to handle differences collaboratively and, if necessary, to seek mediation and/or counseling; and
to respect confidentiality when it is requested and agreed upon
Jone Johnson Lewis, Clergy Leader
Jone Johnson Lewis is a clergyperson, coach, writer and teacher. In her work as an interim Clergy Leader with the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, she speaks on the platform one or two times a month on topics related to our lifelong ethical journey, building a more humane world and other topics important to our community. She also provides pastoral counseling on request of members, organizational consultation to the Society and its board and committees, performs life passage ceremonies for members without fee, and speaks on ethical issues in the wider community.
Jone is currently also the Leader at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture, also a part-time position, and has served as the Leader of the Northern Virginia Ethical Culture Society (NoVES), the Leader of the Chicago Ethical Humanist Society and minister of the Berrien (Michigan) Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Jone’s B.A. in Management is from Mundelein College’s Women in Business program, and her M.Div. is from Meadville/Lombard Theological School, where she had a special interest in studying humanism, social reform, the Transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller etc.) and the history of women in the world’s religions. She has done extensive research into the career and life of Anna Garlin Spencer, an early Ethical Culture Leader.
More of Jone’s experience includes writing on women’s history, teaching on the topic of women in liberal religious history as an adjunct faculty member at Meadville/Lombard Theological School. She has been a participant in the women’s movement and other social justice movements since the late 1960s. Jone has also served as a faculty member of the Humanist Institute (twice) and as a training instructor and executive in the private sector. (Her first career was as a computer programmer, then trainer.) As a coach, she works with today’s women and men wanting to make a difference in the world. She also created and maintains the WisdomQuotes.com website.
She also has interests in human relationships, history, science (especially neuroscience and environmental issues), progressive politics, leadership, Nonviolent Communication, philosophy, website design and content, and music.