I need to confess something.Â I have a big crush on Mordecai Kaplan.Â I am a firm believer that most North American Jews are Kaplanian Reconstructionists, even if they don’t even know what that means.Â So, when I read David Benkof’s article in the Jerusalem Post about the most influential Jews in American history and saw Kaplan’s name in the Top Three, I smiled.
As Benkof writes, Kaplan’s influence on North American Jewry is tremendous:
Several key institutions in American Judaism which Kaplan pioneered endure. For example, Kaplan brought the bat mitzva(h) to America, with his daughter Judith being the first to undergo that new rite of passage. He also helped innovate the Jewish community center movement, the so-called “shul with a pool” (the title of one of Kaufman’s books). He imagined that a synagogue should be more than a place to pray – that it should be a place for the social, intellectual and recreational needs of Jews as well. Today’s JCC’s owe much to his ideas.
The only downside of this article is because it only mentions Kaplan, Louis Brandeis, and Isaac Meyer Wise, I am left wondering who didn’t make the cut.