Reconstructionist Judaism

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Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan
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Reconstructionist Judaism is a progressive American-based Jewish movement that originated in the mid-1930s based on the philosophy of American Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983), who wanted to emphasize the communal aspects of Judaism and ethnic identity without strict adherence to the supernatural elements of Jewish tradition. Through Kaplan’s writings, including the influential Judaism as a Civilization (1934), the movement spread across the United States.

Despite the dissemination of Reconstructionist thought since the 1930s, the first Reconstructionist organization did not form until the late 1960s, with the founding of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1968 and the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation in 1969. Kaplan wanted Conservative Judaism to recognize the movement as its left wing, but after the movement failed to change formal Jewish organizations, Reconstructionists began forming their own schools and congregational federations.

Though smaller than Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative Judaism, the Reconstructionist branch remains the first exclusively American Jewish movement.
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Social Movements and Religion
Religious Minorities (Non-Christian)
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Social Movements and Religion in American History
Religious Minorities (Non-Christian) in American History
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Timeline Entries for the same religious group Judaism Family
Judaism Family: Other ARDA Links


Shabbat service at a Jewish Reconstructionist temple- Flickr- photo by Richard Cahan (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan- Wikimedia Commons

Judaism as a Civilization, title page- Hathi Trust

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College sign- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Ike9898 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Lippy, Charles, and Peter Williams, 2010. Encyclopedia of Religion in America. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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