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Humanists UK mourns activist and educator Josh Kutchinsky (1950-2018)

Josh Kutchinsky (1950-2018)

Humanists UK is sorry to announce the death of Josh Kutchinsky, humanist activist, leader, and educator, who has died in London at the age of 68.

Josh’s contributions to the growth of humanism around the world were vast. For many, he is best remembered for the key role he played in the development of humanism in Africa, where his work helped change the lives of hundreds of young people for the better. In 2008, he became a founding trustee of the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust, a charity working to provide a liberal, humanist education to some of the region’s poorest and most vulnerable children. He also played a pivotal role in setting up Francophone Africa’s first ever secular conference in 2007. He put in place and maintained digital infrastructure which supported humanist networks to form and develop across the continent.

Josh found his experiences working alongside humanist colleagues from around the world profoundly inspiring. In a poem he wrote following the 2011 World Humanist Congress in Oslo, he found expression for what it was he most celebrated in humanism: ‘Thinking freely, / Touching hands, / Minds conceiving.’ But for all his work overseas, he was no less involved in humanism at home, where he helped lead the UK’s largest and most successful local humanist group – the Central London Humanists – for many years. He also served as a trustee of Humanists UK. The Chair of the Board at the time, Robert Ashby, remembers how he made ‘valuable and carefully considered contributions at all times’ and this was a hallmark of all Josh’s work.

Josh at the World Humanist Congress
in Oxford, 2014.

Josh’s acute sense of fairness and social justice, as well as his belief in the liberating power of education, drew him into a wide array of humanist activities to promote a fairer society, and he involved himself closely in Humanists UK’s education and dialogue work, as well as groups such as Humanists for a Better World, promoting ecological and global justice issues. In the early 2000s, he was a pioneering humanist representative on the Brent Standing Advisory Council for RE (SACRE) and others, helping to advance education about humanism in North London schools. Josh became the Chair of Brent SACRE, and with him at the helm Brent became the first SACRE to have two full humanist members. Today Brent’s local RE curriculum is one of the best in the UK, and as inclusive of humanism as it is of the major world religions.

Tributes on social media from many in the world of education have highlighted Josh’s great reputation, with Mark Chater of Culham St. Gabriel’s saying that he was ‘full of philosophical depth and self-deprecating humour… He leaves a great gap in his immediate circle and in the world of RE and education.’ Alan Brine, former National RE Adviser to Ofsted, described Josh as ‘a wonderful man’ who will be ‘sadly missed’.

It was in recognition of his expertise in African development issues, as well as his own extraordinary commitment to humanist ideals and education, that Humanists UK appointed Josh as its representative to both the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and the European Humanist Federation. His contributions to humanism were widely recognised in his lifetime, and in 2013 he was awarded IHEU’s prize for Distinguished Services to Humanism at an awards ceremony in Bucharest.

Andrew Copson, President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the Chief Executive of Humanists UK expressed his own grief and his gratitude for Josh’s life:

‘I am deeply sorry to hear the sad loss of my dear friend, Josh Kutchinsky. Josh was a kind, generous, and big-hearted man whose loss will be felt by humanists around the world. I will miss his friendship and wisdom as will all those at Humanists UK who knew him. Our thoughts are with his wife Ginette and the rest of his family and we remember with gratitude his many contributions to the humanist movement, whether in education, humanist leadership, or the development of humanism in Africa.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 07815 589636.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/   

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