It is often observed that for Mordecai Kaplan (and others) democracy was the religion of America. 
The Kaplan Center appreciates our grant from the Jewish Partnership for Democracy: A More Perfect Union. This grant allows us to embark on a “religious” journey from this February through next October. Each month we will select and distribute to our friends and partners a passage from Mordecai Kaplan or one of his students and collaborators.

This month features Rabbi Manny Goldsmith, zichrono l’veracha.

For Kaplan, the idea underlying democracy is that the interests uniting human beings, if they become truly aware of those interests, are strong enough to ward off the divisive influence of people’s differences. The crucial problem of freedom is how to guard our individuality and the capacity to think for ourselves and yet cooperate with those whose backgrounds, upbringings and outlooks are different from our own. This is an art, said Kaplan, that human beings are slow to learn. Democracy should be conceived as a process of social experimentation by which people are seeking to learn that art and to apply, step by step, the wisdom acquired as a result of such experimentation. That is why the art of free, voluntary cooperation, the ultimate objective of democracy, must constantly be cultivated.

-Rabbi Manny Goldsmith, Reconstructionism Today, Spring 2003


  • In your own life, how do you balance authenticity and devotion to your beliefs and deeply understand the belief systems of those different than yourself?
  • How do your communities engage in the ongoing “experimentation” of creating balance between these two forces?
  •  Why indeed are we so slow to practice “the art of democracy?  
  • In your own life, when do you practice this “art of democracy” most naturally and fully?

Join the Conversation…

Explore the Kaplan Center’s latest resources


  • Kaplan on One Foot: Mel Scult’s Eight Core Principles of Kaplan’s Philosophy
  • Recollections by young adult former Camp Havaya counselors
  • Article that Dr. Rabbi Vered Sakal published about Mordecai Kaplan and Jon Hick


Judaism as a Civilization, The Hanukkah Gift to the Jewish People and World that Keeps on Giving

with Dr. Deborah Waxman and a response by Dr. Elias Sacks

The Great Kaplanian Report Card: Valley Beth Shalom as a Kaplanian Playground

with Rabbis Amy Bernstein, Ed Feinstein, and Jeffrey Schein

Beneath the Surface: Mordecai Kaplan’s Philosophical Commitments Explored

with Dr. Nadav S. Berman and Dr. Rabbi Vered Sakal

Kaplanian Scholarship

Looking to deepen your knowledge of Mordecai Kaplan’s life and philosophy?  

Our 21st Century Kaplanian vision of Jewish Education unfolds…

Visit Reconstructing Judaism to explore the way Kaplan’s influence has become woven deeply into the fabric of a major North American Jewish movement.

Kaplanian Perspectives & Scholarship

Dr. Vered Sakal

Realism, Pluralism and Salvation

Dr. Eric Caplan

The True Spirit of Hanukkah

Kaplanian Voices

Our Kaplanian voices series seeks to sensitize us to the unique ways many of us experience the very notion of Peoplehood  in 2023. Below are excerpts from conversation between Rabbis Jeffrey Eisenstat, founding director of our movement’s Camp Havaya, and former camp counselors about their initial exposures to the philosophies of Mordecai Kaplan a decade ago and its present meaning to them as young adult Jews in their thirties.

Yael Kurganoff on the power of Camp Havaya connections to Israel
Josh Davidson on the essence of peoplehood

Visit the Ira Eisenstein portal where you will find….

  • Introductions by Rabbi Richard Hirsh to Ira Eisenstein’s books Creative Judaism and What We Mean by Religion with digital copies of those currently out-of-print volumes now available on our website
  • Reflections about Ira Eisenstein as theologian and wise leader by Rabbis Dennis Sasso and Jeffrey Schein
  • A recording of Rabbi Eisenstein’s contributions that was hosted by the SAJ:Judaism that Stands For All as part of its centenary celebration

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