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Monday, January 20, 2014

TBJ/TI: Prof. Scult to teach course on Reconstructionism in Feb/May

Information from Temple B’nai Jeshurun and Tifereth Israel Synagogue:


Allen Scult, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion at Drake University will be offering a course on Reconstructionism, the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, beginning February 11th and continuing through the end of May.


Reconstructionism is arguably the only truly American Jewish movement and in many significant ways is peculiarly suited to the problems and possibilities of being Jewish in America in the 21st Century.  Some of its significant innovations are its concept of a non-supernatural God, its abolition of the idea of the chosen people, its notion of Jewish ritual as custom rather than law, the importance in its theology of the State of Israel, and what the founder of Reconstructionism Mordecai Kaplan called Jewish Peoplehood.


 We will discuss these and other topics including the relation of Reconstructionism to Conservative and Reform Judaism, as well as the life and career and the founder of Reconstructionsim, Mordecai M.  Kaplan, one of the most important Jewish thinkers in the twentieth century. In addition to his influential books such as Judaism as a Civilization and The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion, we will also look at parts of his journal, which he kept for most of the his active life (he lived to 103), which gives us a revealing look at his relationship to most of the significant leaders, teachers, and thinkers in the Judaism of the twentieth century, including Solomon Schechter, Rabbi Stephen Wise, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, as well as insight into his struggles as a practicing rabbi, teacher of rabbis at the Jewish Theological Seminary for sixty years, and most importantly into his inner life as  a thinking and passionate Jew.


Those who have questions about the course may contact Professor Scult at To register for the course, please call the Temple office at 274 4649, or the Tifereth Israel office at 255 1137.  The sessions of the course will go from 7:00 to 8:30.  The exact location will be communicated to those who register for the course, so when you register please give us your e-mail address and a contact phone number.  At that time, you may also order a copy the latest and perhaps most important book on Kaplan and his philosophy.  It is entitled The Radical American Judaism of Mordecai Kaplan.  It is published by Indiana University Press, has been exceedingly well-reviewed by both scholars and rabbis and is eminently readable. Though not required, the book will constitute an important element of our study and will be a worthwhile purchase, not only because of the value of the book itself, but we are able to offer it at a 30% discount, in part because the author is Professor Mel Scult.