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 Reconstructionist  Judaism

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Reconstructionist Judaism - Reconstructionism was founded as a movement within Conservative Judaism by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, who believed that Judaism is a "civilization' as opposed to religion. Reconstructionist Judaism became a separate branch of Judaism in 1968, when it established a rabbinical college. 

According to one source, Kaplan believed in the urgency of "reconstructing" Judaism precisely because of the radical dislocations in Jewish life as a result of the Enlightenment, the political emancipation of the Jewish people, and modern technological advances. Although he believed the modern West had much to offer Jews with respect to reconstructing Jewish civilization in accord with American democratic values, he viewed the Roman Catholic Church rather than American Protestantism as a model of group cohesion for Jews. Kaplan's theology seems theistic and deistic in places, but also atheistic in places.

In 1934 Kaplan published his highly influential book Judaism as a Civilization. By defining Judaism as a "civilization." Kaplan defined it as an all-embracing way of life that includes languages, literature, food, customs, civil and criminal law, art, music, food—all elements of any civilization but elements usually considered secular. This definition encouraged non-believing Jews to become part of the movement.

The positive reception of the book encouraged the establishment of The Reconstructionist magazine in 1935, edited by Kaplan and then subsequently by his disciple exponent and son-in-law Rabbi Ira Eisenstein. Reconstructionist liturgical texts, The New Hagaddah (published in 1941) and The Sabbath Prayer Book (published in 1945), which altered the working of the traditional Hebrew text, substituting alternate wording for phrases referring to the chosen-ness of Israel, the resurrection of the dead and the Messiah.

Reconstructionism, as opposed to other major branches of Judaism, rejects the idea that Jews are "chosen" or "special" in any way.

Kaplan was a Zionist whose theology was tolerant and obscure, borrowing from existentialism. and possibly from  John Dewey's naturalism, and the ethics and theology of Martin Buber and Baruch Spinoza  Reconstructionist congregations can make their own practices and theology, since Kaplan believed that lay people were as authoritative as rabbis.

Kaplan and Reconstructionism emphasized Tikkun Olam (universalistic  social projects) as well as particularistic themes and nationalism.

Reconstructionism is eclectic. Female rabbis may unite Jews and non-Jews in holy matrimony in one synagogue, with English services. Others may be more traditional. Since Kaplan's death, Reconstructionism  seems to have become increasingly reliant on mysticism and Kabbalah.

Judging from this article, some Reconstructionist theology may incorporate divine images and may be polytheistic or similar in approach to Christianity. According to Rabbi Schulweiss, who wrote the article, "Adonoi" (God) may look like this:

Of course this is contrary to traditional Jewish theology and practice,

Ami Isseroff

February 18, 2011


Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Judaism, Conservative JudaismOrthodox Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism, Humanistic Judaism Jewish Renewal


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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This work and individual entries are copyright © 2005-2011 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

 

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