• 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.

December 3, 2017 SAJ Program – Bios

Ms. Ruth W. Messinger has been an active member of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ) since 1970.  Her three children all went through the SAJ Hebrew School successfully and were in Rabbi Miller’s B'nei Mitzvah class. 

Ruth is the Global Ambassador for American Jewish World Service, an organization she ran from 1998 to 2016.  She is also the inaugural Louis Finkelstein Institute Social Justice Fellow at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Social Justice Activist at The Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility at the Manhattan JCC. 

Ruth has received five honorary doctorate degrees, including one from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (2008).

Previously, Ruth had a twenty-year career in public service in New York City. She holds a B.A. from Radcliffe College and an M.S.W. from the University of Oklahoma.  Ruth is married to Andrew Lachman and has three children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Rabbi Philip Pohl was born and raised in Buffalo, New York.  Philip studied at the State University of New York at Albany, Columbia University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Columbia University, a Bachelor of Hebrew Literature, a Master of Arts in Judaic Studies and Rabbinic ordination in 1978 from the Seminary.

From 1974-75 and 1976-1978 Philip served as a religious school instructor at the SAJ while Alan Miller served as rabbi.

Philip was chosen as the first full-time rabbi of Congregation B'nai Shalom of Olney (Maryland) in 1978 and served there for twenty-seven years.

Philip is a co-founder of the Washington Jewish Healing Network, a Washington, D.C. based consortium of lectures, activities and services promoting Jewish healing resources.  In May 1999 Philip received a Doctorate of Ministry (D.Min.) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.   His project thesis is entitled Whole, Healthy and Holy - Developing Synagogue Rituals and Services for Spiritual Healing.  Philip also has taught a course entitled “Healing Ministry” at Wesley Theological Seminary.  In November 2005 Philip received a Doctorate of Divinity degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

From 2006 – 2008 Philip served as rabbi of Congregation Nevey Shalom in Bowie, Maryland. This enabled Philip to join with Nevey Shalom’s 2008 transition to Annapolis and to become the first rabbi of the newly formed Congregation Kol Shalom, the only Conservative congregation in Anne Arundel County.  Philip is proud to serve Congregation Kol Shalom and to share in worship and study with its members.

Philip is married to the former Sharon Temin, who is from Silver Spring, Maryland.  They are the proud parents of three daughters.











Dr. John Ruskay is the Executive Vice President emeritus of UJA-Federation of New York and a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

John served as the Education Director and the Executive Director of the SAJ from l975-l977 while Alan Miller served as rabbi.  He also served as the Executive Director of the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot (the predecessor of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation) from l978-l980. 

Now in his fourth decade of leadership in the North American Jewish Community, John was a senior professional at UJA-Federation for 22 years, the last 5 (1999-2014) as Executive Vice President and CEO.  Prior to UJA-Federation, John also served as Vice Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (1985-1993) and Education Director of the 92nd Street YM-YWHA (1980-1985).

John is also a Senior Fellow of The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) and a Senior Consultant at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. 

John has received numerous honors including honorary doctorate degrees from Spertus College (2011), the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (2011), Hebrew Union College (2013), Yeshiva University (2014), and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (2016).

John earned his B.A. cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh (1968), and his MA (1972) and Ph.D. (1977) in Political Science from Columbia University, with a specialization in Middle East Politics.

John has written extensively and speaks nationally on how the American Jewish community can most effectively respond to the challenges and opportunities of living in an open society, the role of Jewish philanthropy, and the central role of community.

In May 2016, then President Barack Obama appointed John to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

John lives in New York with his wife Robin Bernstein.  They have five children and eight grandchildren.

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., is the first woman to head a Jewish congregational union and a Jewish seminary.  She became President of the combined Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities (RRC/JRC) in 2014. Since then, she has drawn on her training as a rabbi and historian to be the Reconstructionist movement’s leading voice in the public sphere.

Since Deborah has assumed her leadership role, RRC/JRC has undertaken a number of major initiatives including: revising the rabbinical college’s curriculum, building even stronger relationships with congregational leadership, innovating Judaism for the 21st century, bolstering Reconstructionist Judaism’s ties to Israel, and opening a second camp.

Deborah has taught courses on Reconstructionist Judaism and practical rabbinics since 2002 at the RRC, where she is the Aaron and Marjorie Ziegelman Presidential Professor.

Deborah is a cum laude graduate of Columbia College, Columbia University, and a recipient of a rabbinical ordination and a Master of Arts in Hebrew letters from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1999.  She earned a Ph.D. in American Jewish history from Temple University in May 2010.

Mr. Daniel G. Cedarbaum is the Executive Director of The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood.  Organized at the end of 2010 and based in Evanston, Illinois, the Kaplan Center is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the transformation of Jewish community through the dissemination and promotion of the thought and writings of Mordecai Kaplan and the advancement of the agenda of the Kaplanian approach to Judaism in the 21st century.  The Kaplan Center’s perspective is explicitly trans-denominational.  

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.

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 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 27, and Sam, who is 25.  Dan is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.  He is a member of the SAJ.