Reconstructionist Judaism: The Fourth Denomination
In 1968, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was founded in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, with Eisenstein as its first president. The decision to found the college can clearly be seen as a move by Eisenstein and other Reconstructionist leaders to officially "found" a fourth alternative in American Jewish life.
The movement has been in the leadership on Jewish identity issues. It pioneered the adoption of patrilineal descent and warmly welcomes intermarried couples. The College officially announced in 1984 that it would admit qualified students who are open about their gay or lesbian sexual orientation, and this position was subsequently adopted by the Reconstructionist Federation of Congregations and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, which was founded in 1974.
The movement has always been at the forefront of the movement for the equality of women in Judaism. Kaplan's daughter Judith had the first bat mitzvah in America (in 1922), and Kaplan firmly believed that "The Jewish woman must demand the equality due her as a right to which she is fully entitled." One of the first graduates of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, who achieved rabbinic ordination in 1974.
Although the Reconstructionist movement in the United States has never been large, it has had a vital importance to American Jewish life. In its attempt to reinvigorate and transform Judaism for a new generation, Reconstructionism has provided a new awareness of the importance of Jewish renewal and understanding.
Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.