Mordecai Kaplan

The founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Mordecai Kaplan struck a fundamental blow for women’s participation in Jewish ritual with the bat mitzvah of his eldest daughter, Judith. Kaplan studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary from 1893–1902 and earned a doctorate from Columbia University, but was ordained privately by Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines in 1908 and began working as an Orthodox rabbi. He was founding rabbi of the Jewish Center from 1918–1922, where he worked to include women in synagogue life and wrote articles on women’s rights for the synagogue newsletter. In February 1922, as part of his intense questioning of Jewish tradition, he founded the Society for the Advancement of Judaism and one month later celebrated the bat mitzvah of his daughter Judith. Kaplan spent his career questioning basic assumptions of Jewish tradition, such as the concept of a chosen people, and his impact was felt throughout the Jewish community through his founding of Reconstructionist Judaism, his revisions to the prayer book, and his scholarship as a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary.


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Mordecai Kaplan in 1915.

Courtesy of the Menorah Journal/Project Gutenburg.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Mordecai Kaplan." (Viewed on May 10, 2021) <>.


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