• 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.

Wrestling with Jewish Peoplehood (2016)


Shabbaton: April 8th - 9th

Conference: April 10th - 11th 

2016 in Philadelphia


For the live stream, please click here.

For the conference schedule (which is subject to change), please click here

For a list of hotels in the area, please click here

We are honored to dedicate this Shabbaton and conference to the memories of two passionate proponents of Jewish peoplehood, Hadassah Kaplan Musher (1912-2013), z”l, and Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum (1929-2016), z”l.  

​The Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood​, ​the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Department of Jewish Studies of McGill University are delighted to invite you to attend a conference titled “Wrestling with Jewish Peoplehood,” to be held at the National Museum of American Jewish History​ in Philadelphia on Sunday, April 10 and Monday, April 11, 2016.  The Museum and the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and possibly other institutions as well, will also play partnership roles in the conference.  You are also invited to participate in a pre-conference trans-denominational Shabbaton, organized by the Kaplan Center and the RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and focused on ​the same themes, ​with several Philadelphia-area synagogues, ​on Friday evening, April 8 and Saturday, April 9.

The conference will be held at the National Museum of American Jewish History, located at 5th and Market Streets on Independence Mall. (The Museum's formal address is 101 South Independence Mall East, Philadelphia, PA 19106-2517.)  

The conference will begin on Sunday morning, running that day from 10:00 a.m. to about 5:00 p.m.  On Monday, we will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at about 4:00 p.m.  We will also be offering a concert Sunday evening at the Museum, featuring Hankus Netsky and Dan Blacksberg, to which you are cordially invited. Kosher box lunches (and snacks but no other meals) will be provided on both days.  

The Shabbaton will begin Friday evening, April 8, at Mishkan Shalom in Northwest Philadelphia (4101 Freeland Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19128). Services will start at 6:30 p.m., followed by a keynote talk by Rabbi Dr. Deborah Waxman and a kosher catered dinner. On Saturday, April 9, we will be at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel (BZBI), located at 18th and Spruce Streets in Center City Philadelphia (300 South 18th Street , Philadelphia, PA 19103), from 9:30 a.m. through the end of Shabbat. We will offer multiple minyanim in the morning.  Programming for children and teens also will be offered.  We will provide a kosher catered lunch and a light dinner at BZBI.  After lunch, we will have an afternoon of learning focused on the peoplehood theme, and other activities as well.  We will also have a Saturday evening musical program, after dinner, featuring Jessi Roemer.  

Overview of the conference:

From the mid-20th century to the present, the terminology of "peoplehood" has reigned supreme in communal and individual descriptions of Jewish life.  Yet some of the factors that may have once made this language useful have markedly shifted in the last few decades.  Not only are Jewish communities more diverse along axes of ethnic and religious origins, but also our knowledge of this diversity is greater than ever before as historians, sociologists, and anthropologists explore the breadth of Jewish life.  Still, throughout its history, the term peoplehood has adapted to changing circumstances.  This conference aims to explore the extent to which peoplehood, in its variations, remains a language of utility and significance to Jewish life. 

Unlike conventional academic conferences, this conference will explore Jewish peoplehood as a phenomenon that lies at the intersection of ideology and experience.  We are bringing together scholars who explore the idea of peoplehood from a variety of perspectives (historical, sociological, theological) with people whose professional and personal experience provide valuable insights into the topic.  These interlocutors will include: Jewish communal professionals, philanthropists, and Jews whose experiences intersect in different ways with conventional narratives/portraits of American Jewishness.

Among the topics we will explore are: The development of the modern idea of peoplehood from its pre-modern roots through its elaboration by Mordecai Kaplan and his successors; peoplehood as it relates to philanthropy, Tzedakah and resource distribution; the ways in which common constructions of peoplehood may include or marginalize Jews and Jewish experiences that are often not identified as "mainstream"; and the ways in which Jewish peoplehood is expressed in language, liturgy, visual arts, and music.

The format of the conference will include plenary panel discussions, text study and other breakout sessions.  

Throughout the weekend, we will be engaging in a variety of trans-​stream conversations about Jewish peoplehood, with presenters from both North America and Israel.  For more information about the conference or the Shabbaton, please contact Dan Cedarbaum at [email protected] or at 847-492-5200.

We hope to see many of you in Philadelphia in April.