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Kaplan Says Rabbis Proclaimed Herem Against Him Because Their Position is Endangered

Condemning the use of the herem, which was proclaimed against him by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis last June, as an attempt by the Orthodox rabbinate to use force as a means of keeping the Jewish religion alive, Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, leader of the Reconstructionist movement, charged today that the Orthodox rabbis took this drastic action because they see their powerful position in the Jewish community challenged by the Conservative rabbinate.

The burning of his revised prayer book and the attack on the entire Reconstructionist movement, Rabbi Kaplan asserts, in a 30-page pamphlet defending his views, was occasioned by the Orthodox rabbi’s hope that they could in that manner damage the entire Conservative branch of Jewry. The use of the herem, he continues, implies that the Orthodox rabbis have never renounced the “right to coerce obedience to rabbinic authority which is not based on democratic consent.”

Rabbi Kaplan also charges that the same spirit of Orthodoxy is stifling Jewish religious growth in Palestine and splitting the community into those who “hurl bans and anathemas,” at one another and those who “detest religion and all its works which they still regard as the creation of hypocritical clericalism.”

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