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The Reconstructionist is a decidedly progressive flow of Judaism that sees this in a constant development. The movement was founded in the 1930s by the American rabbi Mordecai Menahem Kaplan . Less than 1% of the world's Jews belong to it, mostly in the United States.

Characterization, historical origin

Reconstructionism emerged from Conservative Judaism and was initially a current within the conservative movement. A reconstructionist rabbinical college has existed since 1968. The umbrella organization for reconstructionist congregations in the USA is the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation , founded in 1955. It comprises around 100 congregations and groups.

For reconstructionism, the Jewish religious law, the Halacha , as well as Judaism in its entirety, are subject to further development. If the Halacha is interpreted anew by the conservative Judaism, then this law can generally be questioned again and again within the reconstructionism.


Following Mordecai Menahem Kaplan, the reconstructionist movement views Judaism not just as a religion, but as an "evolving religious civilization". This includes not only ritual but all areas of life and aspects of human life: history, literature, art, music, country and language.

As a product of human development, Judaism had gone through different phases, each of which reflected the conditions under which it developed. No divine intervention is assumed, but rather formulated that the Torah did not come to people through divine revelation, as postulated by Orthodox Judaism. This development continues today and must take into account the changing conditions. Every generation has the right and the obligation to study tradition and then reformulate it.

There is complexity in the question of God. There is no personal god for part of the movement. In his early works, Kaplan wrote that God is the sum of all processes of nature that allow man to realize himself. In later works Kaplan speaks of God as an ontological reality. It also exists regardless of what people believe. Within the reconstructionist movement one encounters not only these two perspectives.


Even though only 3% of all Jews in the United States belong to the "reconstructionist movement" (there were 65,000 members in 2013), the movement did pioneering work in some areas, e.g. B. in the liturgy . She was the first to draft a gender-equitable liturgy and not exclusively designate God with male attributes.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Ziegelman Hall, main building of the RRC in Wyncote, PA

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Wyncote, Pennsylvania has trained rabbis since 1968 . Ordination as rabbis has been open to women there since 1972. Sandy Eisenberg Sasso was ordained as the first female graduate in 1974.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

In 1974 the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association was founded. It is the professional association of the reconstructionist rabbis and has over 300 members. The organization is also based in Wyncote, Pennsylvania .


Of the approximately 15 million Jews worldwide, around six million live in the USA. Of these, 6% profess Orthodox Judaism, 35% Conservative Judaism, 38% Reform Judaism; 2% belong to reconstructionist Judaism, the rest do not belong to any of these currents.

History of origin

With the establishment of a New York congregation in 1922, the Society for the Advancement of Judaism , the history of reconstructionism as a Jewish renewal movement began. Kaplan, dean of the renowned Jewish Theological Seminary since 1909 (until 1963), founded an independent group with supporters, students and rabbis within the conservative Jewish movement in 1928, which constituted a Reconstructionist Council .

Kaplan provided the sophisticated theoretical foundation of the emerging, developing reconstructionist current in 1934 with his book Judaism as a Civilization . He formulated reformations of Jewish theology, Jewish philosophy , customs and community life.

Reconstructionist clubs had sprung up all over the United States since 1935, a publishing house was founded, and in the same year The Reconstructionist Magazine was published to communicate reconstructionist positions.

In 1940 Kaplan established the Reconstructionist Foundation , whose membership was open to progressive rabbis and all Jewish lay people, without intending to split from conservative Judaism. The books published later recorded other important stages in the development of Reconstructionism as an independent movement within Judaism, because until then the Reconstructionist movement had been part of the conservative one.

1941 Kaplan was together with his son Ira Eisenstein and Eugene Kohn, a new version rekonstruktionistische for the Seder for Passover , The New Haggadah out.

In 1945 Kaplan, Eisenstein, Kohn and Milton Steinberg published a new version of the Sabbath Prayer Book . This led to some turmoil, u. a. Some ultra-orthodox rabbis burned this prayer book and excluded Kaplan as a heretic and apostate from Judaism, but this was only a symbolic act that had no effect on Kaplan, he was not a member of an ultra-orthodox community.

It was not until 1959 that the Fellowship of Reconstructionist Congregations was founded by Rabbi Ira Eisenstein, when the conservative current split off. Membership was then open to Jewish communities and they could declare themselves reconstructionist without belonging to the conservative movement. Today the reconstructionist movement is called the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation .

In 2003 a reconstructionist youth movement called No'ar Hadash was founded. A reconstructionist holiday camp was also organized with this youth movement. Since 2005 the camp has had a permanent location in the Pocono Mountains (Pennsylvania). Outside the summer, the property is used for conferences of other reconstructionist movements and communities.

Web links

Commons : Reconstructionism  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Community list on the JRF homepage
  2. ^ Mordecai Kaplan: Judaism As a Civilization. The Jewish Publication Society, 1994.
  3. ^ Newsletter of the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot (FRCH), September 1986, pages D, E
  4. Rifat Sonsino: The Many Faces of God: A Reader of Modern Jewish Theologies. 2004, pp. 22-23.
  5. ^ Jerome A. Chanes: A Primer on the American Jewish Community. American Jewish Committee, 2008, p. 6.
  6. Arnold Dashefsky, Ira Sheskin: American Jewish Year Book 2013. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013 S. 198th
  7. ^ Reconstructionist Rabbinical College , Jewish Virtual Library
  8. ^ Website Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
  9. ^ Rebecca T. Alpert : Reconstructionist Judaism in the United States. Jewish Women's Archive , March 1, 2009.
  10. ^ Website Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
  11. ^ Mordecai Kaplan: Judaism As a Civilization. The Jewish Publication Society, 1994. (first edition 1934)