Jane Susswein, Board President, 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.
Dr. Eric Caplan, Vice President and Academic Advisor of the Kaplan Center, is an associate professor of contemporary Judaism and Jewish education at McGill University. He is currently assembling an anthology of Jewish social activist thought in North America, 1860-2021 (Jewish Publication Society) and preparing for publication the final volume of excerpts from the diaries of Mordecai Kaplan, 1951-1978 (Wayne State University Press). Eric’s book, From Ideology to Liturgy: Reconstructionist Worship and American Liberal Judaism (Hebrew Union College Press, 2002), is being reissued with an extensive new preface in 2022. He is a co-founder of the Kaplan Center.
Dr. Mel Scult, Vice President and Academic Advisor 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.
Rabbi Jeffrey Eisenstat is the Founding Director of the Reconstructionist Camp JRF and Youth Program, Noar Hadash. In over 46 years as a rabbi, he has served congregations in Plantation, FL, Philadelphia and State College, PA, directed Hillel at Penn State and has also run summer camps, youth programs, family retreats and family trips to Israel. He received his Masters in Education from Temple University and is a 1976 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
At RRC, Jeff has taught courses for Rabbi as Educator, Merging Formal and Informal Jewish Learning and Transformative Text Experiences. He has served as a faculty member of the JCCA and as a mentor for the Lekhu Lakhem camp director program.
Among his writings are studies in creating family davening experiences, teaching the Civilization Approach and The Values of Spiritual Peoplehood. He has also made some musical recordings.
Jeff is a recipient of the Ira Eisenstein Lifetime Achievement Award from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Jeff has been honored with RRC’s highest award of the Keter Shem Tov. He is married to Rabbi Sarah Messinger where together they co-created Congregation Shireinu in Bryn Mawr, PA., where they used their experiential skills in creative prayer and programs.
Rabbi Michael Margaretten Cohen is a faculty member of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and Bennington College. He teaches courses on conflict resolution, the Bible, and the environment. Rabbi Cohen has been a Policy Advisor to the Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, U.S. Department of State and a Speechwriter Adviser to the Office of the White House Speechwriters. He was recently named to the Advisory Board of the Partnership Peace of USAID established by Congress. Cohen, the rabbi emeritus of the Israel Congregation in Manchester Center, Vermont is the author of numerous articles that have appeared in the Middle East and the United States. He has a commentary of the Torah reading of the week in the Jerusalem Post as well as a regular column in the Jerusalem Post called Letter from America. He is the author of “Einstein’s Rabbi: A Tale of Science and the Soul.” Cohen co-founded of the Green Zionist Alliance. Cohen serves on the Board of Trustees of the Burr & Burton Academy, the Mount Equinox Preservation Trust, the Green Sabbath Project, KaTO Architecture, Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth, and the Jerusalem Peacebuilders. He is a recipient of the Eliav Sartawi Award for Middle East Journalism from the Search for Common Ground.
Caitlin Hayes is a 2021 graduate of the University of New Brunswick’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program. She works as a research assistant and data manager on studies related to burnout in health care professionals during the pandemic. She is currently working on a manuscript examining the lived experience of Nova Scotian health care professionals during the early phases of the pandemic, and occupational factors which affected their burnout.
Caitlin is a congregant and board member of the Society for the Advancement for Judaism. Her Jewish interests include: Kaplanian thought, Digital Judaism, Baltic Jewish Culture since the 19th century, contemporary Jewish movements, and Jewish pedagogy across time. Her work on the board focuses on using Digital Jewish spaces to allow rural, low-income, and disabled Jews to create their own communities, and reclaim/reconstruct their practice.
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 Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood.