Wrong On Mordechai Kaplan


Andrew Fretwell misrepresents the position of Mordecai Kaplan on mixed
marriage in his online op-ed piece, “Intermarriage, Sledding And That Big, Scary Tree” (posted online). In 1956, Kaplan wrote as follows in “Questions Jews Ask”:

“Since Jews are a minority and Judaism is exposed to tremendous disintegrating
forces from the non-Jewish environment, and since Reconstructionism is
concerned with the perpetuation of Judaism, it cannot approve of uncontrolled
intermarriage with non-Jews. If, however, a non-Jew who desires to marry a
Jew, after studying what is involved in being a Jew and what are the
principles and practices of Judaism, is willing to undergo formal conversion
to Judaism, he should be given every encouragement and should be welcomed
into the Jewish community. Only in this way can we compensate for losses
through intermarriage, where conversion is not made a condition. It is
unreasonable to expect that Jewish religion and culture will be perpetuated
in homes resulting from mixed marriage where no such requirement is insisted

Mr. Fretwell is entitled, of course, to disagree. But if he is to cite this
iconic figure as validation, he must consider Kaplan’s later, more developed
views that were somewhat at odds with his earlier (1934) views expressed in “Judaism as a Civilization.”

Steven Bayme National Director

William Petschek Contemporary Jewish Life Dept.
 American Jewish Committee