Kaplan, Mordecai

Kaplan, Mordecai (Menahem)

(1881–1983) rabbi, educator; born in Swenziany, Lithuania. He came to the U.S.A. in 1889. In 1909 he became dean, and later professor, at the Teacher's Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He founded the Reconstructionist Movement in 1935, which holds that Judaism is an entire civilization, not just a religion. He was chairman of the editorial board of the Reconstructionist (1935–59). In 1922 he initiated the Bat Mitzvah ritual for young Jewish girls. A widely published author, he wrote The Future of the American Jew (1948) and Judaism Without Supernaturalism (1958).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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Israel Kaplan, Mordecai's father, ordained by the leading luminaries of Lithuanian Jewry, served as a dayyan in the court of Rabbi Jacob Joseph for two years after his arrival in New York in 1889, and affiliated with the most traditional Orthodox institutions and personalities in the Lower East Side.