• 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.

Project Contributors

Project Staff, Partners, Commentators, Participants in Preliminary Components

 

Project Staff

 

Dr. Jeffrey Schein, Senior Education Consultant, Project Director

Rabbi Erin Hirsh, Project Consultant, website and teaching material design

 

Partners

 

Reconstructing Judaism

RENA: Reconstructionist Educators of North America

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

 

Vision Commentators

 

Many wise and thoughtful people studied the 21st Century Kaplanian Vision for Jewish Education and offered their questions, insights and responses.

We are grateful for their contributions to this project.

 

Dr. Eric Caplan Rabbi James Greene George Kelley Dr. Carol Loveman Morris Sue Penn Tara Saltzman Rabbi Isaac Saposnik

Rabbi Sid Schwarz Dr. Mel Scult Rabbi Toba Spitzer Jane Susswein Rabbi Elyse Wechterman Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman

 

Dr. Eric Caplan

Dr. Eric Caplan, a co-founder and vice president of the Kaplan Center, is a scholar of Reconstructionist Judaism and liberal Jewish life. Here Dr. Caplan describes the context of Kaplan's 20th Century Vision of Jewish Education, which was written as a chapter of Judaism as a Civilization. Here is a more complete biography.

 Rabbi James Greene

Rabbi James Greene is a 2008 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is the Assistant Executive Director of the Springfield Jewish Community Center. He is a board member of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and is a graduate of the Mandel Institute’s Executive Leadership Program.​

 Rabbi Erin Hirsh

Rabbi Erin Hirsh served as the Director of Congregational Education for the Reconstructionist Movement from 2006 - 2012. In 2012, Rabbi Hirsh created the NEXT program at Gratz College. NEXT provides online professional development for congregational education directors and teachers throughout North America. Rabbi Hirsh also refined and directed multiple teen programs at Gratz, including JOLT: Jewish Online Learning for Teens, the Jewish Community High School of Greater Philadelphia and Gratz Academy, which provides college credit to teens for on campus and online courses. Her time at Gratz culminated with her service as Interim President from 2017 – 2018.

 George Kelley

George Kelley has been the Education Director of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, since 2002.  He was recently elected chair of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America. George has had a career in education including working in and running early childhood programs, acting as an educational consultant, a professional storyteller and teaching at a university.   George believes that education should be more about learning than teaching.  For George all learning is a social activity and should make people not only feel challenged but encouraged. George lives in Westfield, IN with his wife Dianne.  

Dr. Carol Loveman Morris

Dr. Carol Loveman Morris has been the Director of Education at B’nai Havurah in Denver, Colorado since 2008. Her over 25 year career connecting Jews to Jewish life in Colorado has been through education, disability inclusion and life cycle celebrations. She is committed to creating Jewish educational programming that is engaging for the whole family, welcoming, meaningful and inclusive. Carol lives in Centennial, Colorado with her husband, Marty, and they have 2 adult children and one canine child named Ziva.                                               

 Sue Penn

Sue Penn is the Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue in Irvine, California where she oversees 6 different educational programs. She is committed to providing positive Jewish educational experiences, building strong community and life -long engagement and identity. To this purpose, Sue has built a variety of innovative programs, meeting the needs of her congregants from 4 - 104 years old. Originally from South Africa, Sue now lives with her husband of 30 years and three wonderful children in California

 Tara Saltzman

Tara Saltzman is the Director of Education at Congregation Beth Evergreen in Colorado. She moved to Colorado in 1998 after earning a Master’s in Social Science Education with Minors in Sociology and Psychology in Miami. Tara has spent over 30 years as a devoted religious school educator. Her passions include life-long learning, social justice, interfaith dialogue and singing. She seeks opportunities for students and adults to explore their curiosity together and discover strength and joy in shared Jewish goals and values along diverse paths.

 Rabbi Isaac Saposnik

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik is executive director of Havaya Summer Programs: Camp Havaya, Havaya Arts and Havaya Israel. He is a graduate of Tufts University, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Executive Leadership Institute. A longtime camper and youth worker, he is passionate about creating engaging, meaningful and innovative Jewish experiences that celebrate children in all of their diversity and wonder.

 Dr. Jeffrey Schein

Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Schein, the Kaplan Center's Senior Education Consultant, is also currently director of “Text Me: Judaism and Technology,” a joint project of the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland and The Covenant Foundation.  He was previously director of the Adolescent Initiative and Special Projects for the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland.  For twenty years prior to that, he was a professor and director of the Education Department at the Laura and Alvin Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland.  He also served as the senior consultant to the “Lekhu Lakhem” project of the Mandel Jewish Center, a major initiative to change the Jewish character of eighteen JCC camps across North America through the professional development of their directors.  For seventeen years he served as the education director and then senior consultant for Jewish education to the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, the congregational organization of the Reconstructionist movement.  He also served on the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College for nine years. Here is a more complete biography.

 Rabbi Sid Schwarz

Rabbi Sid Schwarz is a senior fellow at Hazon. He currently runs two national initiatives: a two year fellowship for rabbis on visionary leadership and change management called the Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI); and Kenissa: Communities of Meaning Network, which identifies, convenes and builds capacity for new models of Jewish identity and community. He is the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD, where he continues to lead services and teach. He is the author of three books including, Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews can Transform the American Synagogue.

 Dr. Mel Scult 

Dr. Mel Scult, a co-founder and Vice President & Secretary of the Kaplan Center, is the author of The Radical American Judaism of Mordecai M. Kaplan and Judaism Faces the Twentieth-Century: A Biography of Mordecai M. Kaplan. He is the editor of selections from Kaplan's diary, Communings of the Spirit. Here Dr. Scult describes the context of Kaplan's chapter on Jewish education in Judaism as a Civilization in the context of all of Kaplan's writings about Jewish education. Here is a more complete biography.

 Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Rabbi Toba Spitzer has served RJ affiliate Congregation Dorshei Tzedek since her graduation from RRC in 1997. Rabbi Spitzer has written curriculum for children and adults on a variety of topics, and is particularly interested in rethinking God language, bringing mindful Jewish practice into the lives of people of all ages, and fostering communities grounded in values of justice and love.

 Jane Susswein

Jane Susswein was a kindergarten and science teacher. She helped start a public - private pre-K, and continues to serve on its board 21 years since its founding. She was president of the JRF and Education Chair. She is a member of Bnai Keshet in Montclair, NJ and continues to be active in the synagogue. She lives in Verona, NJ, is married to Harvey, and they have two daughters and four grandchildren.

 Rabbi Elyse Wechterman

Rabbi Elyse Wechterman is the Executive Director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. Prior to leading the RRA, she served as Rabbi and Educator at Congregation Agudas Achim in Attleboro, MA where she ran an inclusive Hebrew School for children with a variety of learning needs.

 Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman

Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman is the rabbi and education director at RJ affiliate Congregation Shaarei Shamayim for the last 16 years. She seeks to infuse both critical thinking and self-reflection into the vision and practice of Jewish education and congregational life and to continually experiment to make Judaism meaningful for the next generation of Jews. Rabbi Zimmerman is the author of Reframing Israel: Teaching Kids to Think Critically About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.  

 

Participants in Preliminary Components of this Project

 

 

Reconstructionist Educators of North America (RENA) – Kaplan Center Course

 

Facilitators: Dr. Jeffrey Schein and Sue Penn

Rabbi Jamie Arnold     Linda Aron     Terri Bernsohn     Catherine Carmel     Dr. Eric Caplan     Arthur Finkle

Stacey Frank     George Kelley     Rabbi Dena Klein     Jackie Land     Barry Leshowitz     Yaakov Martin

Dr. Carol Loveman Morris     Abby Reiken     Renee Richards     Tara Saltzman     Susan Schaibly     Rabbi Jodie Siff     

Eric Svenson     Cyd Weissman     Ariann Weitzman     Danielle Wiltchik

 

Reconstructing Judaism Kaplan Center Pre-Convention Workshop

 

Facilitator: Dr. Jeffrey Schein

Dr. Eric Caplan Rabbi Jeffrey Eisenstat Rabbi James Greene Rabbi Erin Hirsh

George Kelley Sue Penn Lori Rubin Rabbi Isaac Saposnik Jane Susswein Cyd Weissman