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Kaplan, Reconstructionist Founder, Hailed on 100th Year

June 9, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Friends and colleagues of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of the Jewish Reconstructionist movement and widely regarded as a leading philosopher and builder of twentieth century Judaism, joined with leaders of the Jewish community to celebrate Dr. Kaplan’s 100th birthday at a champagne reception held yesterday at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, N.Y.

Among those paying tribute to Rabbi Kaplan were Gerson Cohen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where Dr. Kaplan taught for many years; and former Chancellor Louis Finkelstein. Messages of greeting were presented from Gov. Hugh Carey and Mayor Edward Koch. Martin Abelove, chairman of the Reconstructionist Centennial committee, was among the speakers, as was Rabbi Ira Eisenstein, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, and Rabbi Ludwig Nadelmann, Reconstructionist Foundation president.

In response to the tributes, Rabbi Kaplan declared: “Please accept my heartfelt thanks for honoring me on my having entered my one hundreth year. The truth is that you are not really honoring me as an individual. You are paying tribute to the work I have done on your behalf.”


Rabbi Kaplan added that “I have striven to formulate a conception of Judaism which will make your own lives and the lives of your children meaningful. The greatest tribute you can give me, therefore, is to carry on the work which you have begun, so that Judaism as a religion of ethical nationhood will live and make its contribution to the world which needs it desperately.”

Others in attendance included Rabbi and Mrs. William Berkowitz, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, Rabbi Benjamin Kreitman, Rabbi Robert Gordis, Rabbi Elliot Skiddell, and Rabbi David Teuch, Foundation director of special projects. Howard Squadron, president of the American Jewish Congress, and Bertram Gold, executive vice-president of the American Jewish Committee, were also among those present at the Riverdale reception.

Rabbi Kaplan’s colleagues presented him with a Centennial Salute in the form of a scroll. The text read: “Rabbi, teacher, and leader of generations, founder of Reconstructionism, shaper of twentieth century Judaism, prophet of our age, whose vision inspired us in our commitment to deepen and enhance Jewish life, from his colleagues in the rabbinate.” The scroll was signed by more than 200 rabbis.

Rabbi Kaplan taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary for 50 years, where his ideas influenced several generations of Conservative rabbis. In 1922 he founded the Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York City to serve the goals of the Reconstructionist movement, experimenting with new forms of worship, education, cultural and group activities to relate Judaism to contemporary life while remaining true to its traditions.

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