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.

Board of Directors

Dr. Eric Caplan, a Vice President of the Kaplan Center, was born in Montreal, Canada. He received his B.A. in Jewish Studies and Religious Studies from the University of Toronto, where he graduated in 1985. Between 1986 and 1990, Eric lived in Israel and pursued M.A. studies at the Samuel M. Melton Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Eric received his Ph.D. from McGill University in the fall of 1998. He is the author of From Ideology to Liturgy: Reconstructionist Worship and American Liberal Judaism, published by Hebrew Union College Press in 2002.

Eric continues to research Reconstructionist Judaism and liberal Jewish life in general. He is currently studying social activism in contemporary North American Jewish life and preparing for publication a volume of excerpts from the diaries of Mordecai Kaplan, 1951-1978. Eric is the Director of McGill’s Jewish Teacher Training Program, Chair of its Department of Jewish Studies, and an associate professor in its Faculties of Arts and Education. He is a co-founder of the Kaplan Center.

Mr. Daniel G. Cedarbaum is Executive Director, President and Treasurer of the Kaplan Center.  Dan became the Director of Movement Growth Initiatives and Special Projects of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (JRF) in September 2008, having previously served for almost 20 years as a member of JRF’s Board of Directors.  He was also the JRF’s Acting Director of Individual Giving and staffed the JRF’s Chicago-area office. Dan worked professionally for the JRF through November 2010, when he left to start the Kaplan Center, together with Mel Scult, Eric Caplan and Jack Wolofsky.

From 2002-2006, Dan was the President of the JRF, and a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.  In addition, Dan has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and as a member of the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees of the United Jewish Communities.  Dan has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council of Synagogues, which is perhaps the leading national Jewish organization working in the area of interfaith dialogue and programming.  In addition, Dan has served on the Board of Directors of, and been a presenter at, Limmud Chicago. Dan has published three articles in The Reconstructionist, “The Rabbi As Master,” which appeared in the Fall 1999 issue, “The Role of Halakha in Reconstructionist Decision Making,” which appeared in the Spring 2001 issue and was adapted as “Reconstructing Halakha” in the Spring 2002 issue of Reconstructionism Today, and “Toward a Redefinition of Reconstructionism,” which appeared in the Fall 2005 issue and a portion of which was adapted as “Reconsidering Reconstructionist Liturgy” in the Winter 2007 issue of Reconstructionism Today.

Dan and his wife, Caryn Jacobs, live, in Evanston, Illinois.  They are the proud parents of two children, Jacob, who is 30, and Sam, who is 28.  Dan is a member of multiple synagogues in the Chicago and New York areas.  In 2011, Dan co-founded Minyan Shirat ha-Agam (Song of the Lake).  Dan is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He is a co-founder of the Kaplan Center.

Dr. Mel Scult, a Vice President and Secretary of the Kaplan Center and Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn College, is the author, most recently, of The Radical American Judaism of Mordecai M. Kaplan. He also authored Judaism Faces the Twentieth-Century: A Biography of Mordecai M. Kaplan.  That biography has been published in Hebrew by Yediot Ahronot.  He is the editor of a selection from the twenty-seven-volume Kaplan diary entitled, Communings of the Spirit. In addition, he has published essays on Solomon Schechter and Henrietta Szold.

Mel’s essay “Schechter’s Seminary“ is included in Tradition Renewed A History of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Along with Rabbi Emanuel S. Goldsmith, Mel edited Dynamic Judaism-The Essential Writings of Mordecai Kaplan, a Kaplan reader that has also appeared in Hebrew.  In addition, Mel, together with Rabbi Goldsmith and Dr. Robert Seltzer, edited a volume of essays on the thought of Mordecai Kaplan, titled The American Judaism of Mordecai M. Kaplan.

He is a member of West End Synagogue, a Reconstructionist congregation, and lives in New York City with his wife, Barbara Gish Scult. He earned bachelor’s degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminart of America and New York University, a master’s degree from Harvard University, and a doctorate in Judaic Studies from Brandeis University.

In addition to teaching at the City University of New York, he has also taught at Vassar College, Brandeis University, The Jewish Theological Seminary and The New School. He has lectured widely at universities and Jewish institutions including Stanford University, Mc Gill University, Brandeis University, Georgetown University, Drake University, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati and Jerusalem), The Jewish Theological Seminary, the Spertus Institute in Chicago and The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.  He is a co-founder of the Kaplan Center.

Ms. Jane Susswein has been involved with the Reconstructionist movement since 1978; her daughter was one of the first babies named at the just-formed Bnai Keshet synagogue in Montclair New Jersey. She and her husband, Harvey, served as co-presidents and continue to be active members of the synagogue.  Jane joined the board of the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot more than 20 years ago, and served as President for four years. While president of the JRF, she was responsible for changing the name from FRCH to the less-of-a-mouthful Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (JRF). As president, Jane was an active member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. She later served as lay chair of the JRF’s Education Committee and served on the Tikkun Olam Committee.

For the past 16 years, Jane has served on the Religious Pluralism Funding Subcommittee of the MetroWest Federation in northern New Jersey. She has become familiar with the wide range of organizations in Israel striving to do what we would understand as quite Reconstructionist – enabling Israelis to own their Judaism on their own terms. Jane is an active member of her community in Montclair. She has served on the Civil Rights Commission and the Board of Education. In 1997, she help found the Montclair Community Pre-K, a unique public-private partnership whose mission is to allow any child to have an affordable high-quality preschool education. She continues to serve on its board.

Jane grew up in Montclair, graduated from Wellesley College in 1968 with a degree in Philosophy, and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with an MAT in 1970. She has taught elementary school and science. Jane and her husband, Harvey, have two grown daughters and four grandchildren.

Mr. Jacob (Jack) Wolofsky graduated from McGill University with a B.Eng. in l953 and received an M.S. Eng. in 1954 from the University of Illinois. After graduation he worked for, and as, a consulting engineer. Jack’s family has long been active in the Montreal Jewish community. When, in l963, Jack found Rabbi Lavy Becker, and the synagogue that he had recently founded in Montreal (now called Congregation Dorshei Emet), he felt that this was home. Jack has served as the president of Congregation Dorshei Emet and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.  He is a co-founder of The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood.

The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

3601 Park Center Blvd., Apt 307
Minneapolis, MN 55416