Mordecai Kaplan

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Mordecai Menahem Kaplan (June 11, 1881 – November 8, 1983), was a rabbi, essayist and Jewish educator, the ideologue of Reconstructionist Judaism which he founded with his son-in-law Ira Eisenstein.[1]

Kaplan was born in Švenčionys, Lithuania to Rabbi Israel and Haya (Anna) Kaplan. In 1889, he immigrated to the United States with his mother and sisters to join his father in New York City who was working with the Chief Rabbi Jacob Joseph. He attended Yeshiva Etz Chaim (Manhattan) for a short period. In 1895 Kaplan attended the City College of New York. From 1893 to 1902 he also studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. After graduating from CCNY in 1900 he went to Columbia University studying philosophy, sociology and education receiving a Masters Degree and a Doctorate. Majoring in philosophy he wrote his Masters thesis on the ethical philosophy of Henry Sidgwick. His lecturers included the philosopher of ethical culture Felix Adler and the sociologist Franklin Giddings.

In July 1908 he married Lena Rubin. He received Semikhah from Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines while on his honeymoon. Kaplan began his career as an Orthodox rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, a synagogue in New York. He helped to create the Young Israel movement of Modern Orthodox Judaism with Rabbi Israel Friedlander, was a leader in creating the Jewish community center concept, and helped found the Society for the Advancement of Judaism.

From 1934 until 1970 Kaplan wrote a series of books in which he expressed his reconstructionist ideology which centred around the "concept of Judaism as a civilization". He was prolific writer, keeping a journal throughout most of his life.

After the death of his wife in 1958, he married Rivka Rieger, an Israeli artist. He died in New York City in 1983. He was survived by Rivka and his daughters Dr. Judith Eisenstein, Hadassah Musher, Dr. Naomi Wenner and Selma Jaffe-Goldman.


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