The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983) was one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. We believe that his thought may be even more important in the 21st century.

Through the end of October, up to $20,000 in contributions to the Kaplan Center will be matched by the Jacobs-Cedarbaum family as their commitment to completing the work that Dan Cedarbaum began. Click here to learn more about the Kaplan Center’s plans.

Mel’s Desk

Kaplan on Creation, Creativity, and Us

Kaplan is much undervalued as a theologian.  We think of him as a sociological thinker, with his central concept of “Judaism as a Civilization.”  But, of course, he is much more than that.  We might refer to him as the sociologist become theologian.  Below we will see the theologian at work.

Kaplan understands that when we talk of creation we mean to refer to the order and unity that comes out of the chaos – out of the Tohu va-Vohu as the Torah puts it.  (I love this expression, not the chaos but the words, because there is so much chaos in my life and in the world that I need to remove.)  The order and the unity that are the primary qualities of creation may be found not only in the outer universe but also in the inner life of each of us.  The inner life is always a reflection of the larger cosmos.  We are connected.  Thus, whenever we create, we are in a sense contributing to the greater order and unity that is the ongoing process of creation. Our creative acts are a manifestation of the Divine. ...

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To order Mel's third volume of Kaplan's journals, click below (and use the discount code FW20):

For Mel's second volume of Kaplan's journals, including a discount code, click below:

Mel discusses his book The Radical American Judaism of Mordecai M. Kaplan in a podcast.

For that book, click below:

For an interview with Mel in the New Jersey Jewish News, titled "Judaism should serve the Jewish people," click here.

With great sadness, the Board of the Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood announces the death of Daniel Cedarbaum, its executive director and co-founder of the Kaplan Center. May his memory be for a blessing. The Board is committed to the continuation of the work of sustaining the legacy of Mordecai Kaplan that Dan inspired.

On August 4th, 2021, many of us gathered on Zoom for a study session to mark the conclusion of the sheloshim, the first 30 days of mourning, for our friend and colleague, Dan Cedarbaum.

From our founding Executive Director, Dan Cedarbaum z”l

Why a Kaplan Center?

More than 80 years ago, at the very beginning of the very first issue of The Reconstructionist journal, Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan and his colleagues reprinted an editorial from a 1928 issue of that journal’s predecessor, The S.A.J. Review, succinctly explaining their reasons for the creation of a new movement. “[T]he problem of Jewish life is just th[e] problem of unity,” the editorial stated. “A solution to the problem of Jewish life depends upon finding, or making, a positive ideology which will enable both Orthodox and Reform, both believers and nonbelievers, to meet in common and to work together. It is only by conceiving Judaism as a civilization, and not as a general religious movement embracing many sects, that we will be able to construct such an ideology and reconstruct the Jewish civilization." ...

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Eric’s Forum

Kaplan and Birmingham (1963)

While working on a project for The Ira and Judith Kaplan Eisenstein Reconstructionist Archives of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (here), I came across a letter to Mordecai Kaplan from Rabbi Everett Gendler, a prominent student of Kaplan’s who is still living, thanking Kaplan for his speech to the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly (RA) convention of 1963 and for his role in “ma[king] it possible for the Rabbinical Assembly to speak as it should have on the Birmingham Situation.”

Gendler, a member of the convention’s program committee, had in the previous year participated in prayer vigils and protests in Albany, Georgia, in support of Civil Rights. He led a group of 19 Conservative rabbis who left the 1963 RA convention to go to Birmingham, Alabama to support Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in their on-going efforts to desegregate the city. (To learn more about Rabbi Gendler, click here.) King’s campaign was front-page news at the time because of the city’s use of attack dogs and high-pressure water cannons on protesters of all ages and its arrest of more than a thousand activists.

The RA delegation to Birmingham, the first to be sent to the South by a major American Jewish religious denomination, has a storied place in the history of American Jews and the Civil Rights movement. Kaplan, however, is never associated with it. I wondered: What is Gendler’s letter referring to? I found the answer in Kaplan’s diaries and in the 1963 volume of the Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly. ...

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Education Corner

Jeffrey Schein

In the twinkling of an eye: Five features of the upcoming pandemic transitions


We will soon be going through a transition. Some prefer to call it the movement towards a “new” normal. In our volume L’Dor V’Dor in the Digital Age, we call it more simply pre-pandemic, pandemic and post-pandemic.

When will the transition occur? That, of course, involves prophetic powers well beyond my paygrade. Nor do I have access to any CDC stream of pandemic tracking data not available to the reader of eJewishPhilanthropy. Hopefully, however, the observations below are helpful to our preparations for the transition when it occurs.

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The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

3601 Park Center Blvd., Apt 307
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