Mordechai M. Kaplan

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Mordechai M. Kaplan

Mordechai M. Kaplan ( Mordecai M. = Mordecai Menahem Kaplan ; born June 11, 1881 in Švenčionys , Russian Empire , today Lithuania ; † November 8, 1983 in New York ) was an American rabbi , philosopher and founder of Jewish reconstructionism in the USA .


Mordechai Kaplan, who lived in the USA since 1889, grew up in an Orthodox environment, but later studied and taught at the conservative Jewish Theological Seminary in New York (teaching there [with short interruptions] from 1909 to 1963).

Under the influence of cultural Zionism , he founded and directed the New York Unified Congregation Cultural Center from 1917 to 1922 and developed the concept of reconstructionism in the 1930s. In 1934 the main work on this subject, Judaism as a Civilization , was published; from 1935 onwards he published the magazine The Reconstructionist .

Reconstructionism was supposed to eliminate the disadvantages of Reform, Orthodoxy and Conservative Judaism and unite their advantages in a new, newly reconstructed Judaism. Kaplan saw Judaism as an independent religious culture, which owes itself to its origins in religion, but which must remain capable of renewal within a constantly changing world through permanent reinterpretation, i.e. the reconstruction of its religious sources. The transcendental elements of the Jewish religion would have to be brought radically into the world and changed into an inner-worldly belief in progress ( Judaism without Supernaturalism ).

The Sabbath Prayer Book , which reflects this ideology, was banned by Orthodoxy, and so were Kaplan's followers, such as For example, the conservative rabbi and philosopher Milton Steinberg or the existentialist philosopher Will Herberg ultimately rejected Kaplan's evolutionism .

With its numerous approaches to renewing the Jewish religion , reconstructionism actually became the fourth direction within Judaism. While this direction is rejected by representatives of Jewish Orthodoxy, some reconstructionist communities are represented in the World Union for Progressive Judaism .

Works (selection)

  • Judaism as a Civilization , 1934
  • The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion , 1937
  • The Future of the American Jew , 1948
  • Judaism without Supernaturalism , 1958