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Reconstructing Judaism

02/06/2018 09:28:04 PM


I’m thrilled with the news out of Philadelphia. Nope, not the Super Bowl 2018 win by the Philadelphia Eagles; it is something far more parochial.

Last week saw the announcement of the “rebranding” of the two entities at the core of what has been known as the Reconstructionist movement. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College – where I studied from 1989-1996 – and the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, which had merged under the umbrella of the College four years ago, are now known together as Reconstructing Judaism.

What indeed is in a name? Are we still a ReconstructionIST affiliate? (Yes.) Is ReconstructionISM still a valid and active school of thought in Judaism? (Of course, even more so). So what has changed?

In a way, this move and the lovely logo image combined with the tag line –Deeply Rooted. Boldly Relevant – hearkens back to the original impetus behind the vision put forward by Mordecai M. Kaplan in the early 20th century.

Kaplan, who himself taught at the (Conservative movement’s) Jewish Theological Seminary for 60 years (he lived to 102!) was famously disinterested in establishing a denomination, in the model of the other liberal branches of Judaism. Eventually, with the leadership of his son-in-law Rabbi Ira Eisenstein, a rabbinical seminary was established to train rabbis in the school of thought Kaplan had developed. Notably, the curriculum was structured around the concept of Judaism as an evolving religious civilization, raising up the notion that the tradition continually adapts, addressing the issues of the moment, of each civilizational era, examined through the texts and stories of the tradition.

No one doubts that change is necessary to adapt to the huge numbers of transformative influences, factors and pressure on Twenty-First century Jewish communities.  One of my favourites phrases currently is “rampant optionalism.” So much energy has been depleted by dire predictions of Judaism’s imminent demise in the face of what has been wrought by the vastness of open access to … well, just ask Rabbi Google … everything and anything.

Well before branding was a thing, Kaplan’s Big Vision was an embrace of how the Jewish people live their present and future. Reconstructing Judaism was always the enterprise of the Reconstructionist movement, and is still so today. Hineninu. Here we are, with renewed energy, a great rabbinical study and training program, a lively association of communities, and groundbreaking, relevant and innovative programs to serve the Jewish people. I remain deeply committed to the vision that is now called Reconstructing Judaism, a vision that will outlast any trend or trophy.

- Rabbi Liz

Watch Rabbi Deborah Waxman talk about the new image and name

Read about Reconstructing Judaism here:

And join us on Sunday morning, February 25. Tresa Grauer, head of Affiliate Support for Reconstructing Judaism is coming to Ottawa! Learn more about our new identity, get excited about the upcoming convention in Philadelphia convention in Philadelphia in November (as well as our Canadian Reconstructionist Shabbaon in June!) Hold the date. Details TBA.

Mon, May 20 2019 15 Iyar 5779