Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Abrahamic Religions » Judaism » Denominations & Sects » Reconstructionist

Reconstructionist Judaism is a modern Jewish movement that developed as a strand of Orthodox Judaism and became an independent movement in 1955.

The movement was based on the ideas of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, an Orthodox rabbi and professor at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, who reconstructed Judaism by altering some of the tenets of Orthodox Judaism.

Rabbi Kaplan, along with his son-in-law, Rabbi Ira Eisenstein, developed the concepts of Reconstructionism between the late 1920s and the 1940s, taking a view of Judaism as an evolving civilization, emphasizing community issues over traditional Jewish theology. After being ridiculed by Orthodox rabbis for his views, Kaplan and Eisenstein founded the Society for the Advancement of Judaism in 1922, which was formed for the purpose of encouraging rabbis to form new outlooks on Judaism.

Although the original intent was not to form a new Jewish denomination, Reconstructionist leaders called for a rabbinical school to ordain rabbis under the Reconstructionist ideology and to form Reconstructionist congregations. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was opened in 1968, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association was formed simultaneously.

The Reconstructionist movement was the first Jewish movement to originate in North America.

Kaplan believed that modern advances in history, philosophy, and science made it difficult for Jews in the contemporary8 world to continue to adhere to the traditional theological claims of Judaism.

Kaplan held that anthropomorphic descriptions of God in scripture were intended to be metaphoric, a position that was affirmed by Orthodox Judaism, as well. Kaplan went further than that, however, denying the concept of a personal God. He did not believe that God was a conscious being who could relate or communicate with individual human beings. Later, his theology suggested that God was the sum of all natural processes that allow people to become fulfilled.

Classical Reconstructionists reject the traditional forms of theism, but not all are classical. Many Reconstructionists are deists, and some hold to a Kabbalistic view of God. There is a great deal of theological diversity in Reconstructionist Judaism, as the body of Jewish Law (Halakha) is not considered to be binding on individuals.

More central to Reconstructionist Judaism is the understanding that theology is not the cornerstone of the movement, but that Judaism should be viewed as a progressive civilization in which the Jewish people take an active role, thus bringing about its ongoing evolution.

Generally, Reconstructionists deny the concept of original sin, upholding the essential goodness of mankind.

Most Reconstructionists dismiss the idea that God reveals his will to mankind as supernatural fiction. They also deny the traditional Jewish (and Christian) idea that the Jews are God's chosen people.

Reconstructionist rabbis are permitted to determine their own policies toward intermarriages, so there are differences from one congregation to another. The role of non-Jews in congregations is a matter that is still being debated, and these practices vary between congregations as well. Since 2015, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College has been accepting rabbinical students in interfaith relationships, although this has not been without objection.

Reconstructionist Judaism enjoys good relations with Reform Judaism, but Orthodox Judaism considers the Reconstructionists to be in violation of the proper observance of Jewish Law.

Reconstructionist Judaism is the focus of websites listed in this category or any subcategories.



Recommended Resources

Search for Reconstructionist on Google or Bing