Reconstructionist Judaism Essay

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Reconstructionist Judaism

As the Jewish people moved into the 20th century, they found it hard to identify themselves with the birth of their four-thousand year old faith. Along with temporal distance from the Israelites, the Jews were at a spiritual distance. A changing world brought forth evolution in modern modes of living and ways of life; many Jewish leaders seized the reins and called for the evolution of Judaism as well. Movements with the goal "to concentrate and give organizational form to the elements of strength within all sections of American Judaism..." (Raphael 185) were championed in an effort to revitalize the Jewish community. In the mid-twentieth century, Mordecai M. Kaplan founded the Reconstructionist movement in
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Kaplan faults the Jews for living on the assumption that their own self-fulfillment could not be achieved in the “here and now,” as he says. Behind this desire for salvation is an inherent discontent with the state of the world, and Kaplan hopes
“that discontent can be made to function as a wholesome factor in impelling man to remake his own nature, and to reconstruct the social and physical environment through which he must function” (Kaplan 31).

Kaplan doesn’t fault the Jews for this problem, but rather the Jewish religion, which and he calls for its reconstruction.

“Few will claim for Jewish life in its present state that it can do much to help the Jew who is really concerned in the saving of his soul […] if it is unable to make them feel spiritually at home, it must be made to undergo such changes in its ideology and structure as would generate in it that power” (Kaplan 34).

Kaplan’s revolutionary concept of reconstruction hinges on transforming Judaism into a “this-worldly” cultural nation. Under Kaplan’s movement, Judaism expands its influence to the entire world, with the desire to contribute to the social and spiritual improvement of mankind. In his book, Judaism in Transition, Kaplan outlines five steps toward becoming a “this-worldly” cultural nation. First, defining Judaism as a civilization is imperative for Kaplan, as Jewish nationhood can not be characterized by the narrow,

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