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Kaplan Conversations | The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

    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.

    Kaplan Conversations

    Thursday, December 24, 1942

    The contribution which Judaism has made and should continue to make to democracy and the American way of life is best summarized in the motto enunciated by the prophet Zachariah [4:6].  “Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit saith the Lord of Hosts” and to add the supplement of Hillel’s famous summary of Judaism, “The rest is commentary, go and learn.”

    The importance of Zachariah’s motto is that it furnishes the key to that inner freedom without which democracy is merely a hollow form.  “Not by might nor by power but by my spirit” sets forth the mental attitude which is a prerequisite to the building of a world on the foundations of peace.  Before we can have democracy in action, we must will it.  That calls for a sense of values which are certain to direct our will toward democracy and impel us to live by it and give our all in defense of it[, which] is that implied in the prophet’s motto: Not by might nor by power &c. …

    If democracy is to function as the soul of the American way of life, and if that way of life is to become a means to self-fulfillment for every American, the sense of values which measure the highest good not by might or power but by justice and mercy must be incorporated in an American system of law and the process of education.

    Mel Scult:  Kaplan is saying here that it is only education for all and due process of law for all that will save us.

    What do you think?

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    The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood

    1574 Ashland Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201
    Phone: 847-492-5200