Resources on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

Mordecai Kaplan

This individual is not a direct affiliate of the Berkley Center.

Mordecai Kaplan is widely hailed as the father of the Reconstructionist Movement. Born in Lithuania in 1881, Kaplan received a traditional Jewish education and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1889. In his youth, Kaplan grew uncomfortable with Orthodox Judaism and cultivated an interest in reform Jewish thought. Kaplan received a M.A. from Columbia University and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1909 he began his teaching career at the Jewish Theological Seminary in the philosophy of religion. Because of his interest in sociology and the physical sciences, Kaplan reinterpreted Judaism as a civilization instead of a religion characterized by language, arts, custom, and tradition. In 1935, Kaplan wrote Judaism as a Civilization, which became the foundation for the Reconstructionist Movement. Kaplan died in 1983 at the age of 102. His reformist ideas continue to influence modern, secular Jewish society today.
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