Judaism As a Civilization: Toward a Reconstruction of by Mordecai M. Kaplan

By Mordecai M. Kaplan

Judaism as a Civilization is still probably the most unique and thought-provoking contributions towards making a entire application for artistic Jewish lifestyles. during this seminal paintings, Kaplan bargains his now recognized idea of Judaism as an evolving non secular civilization. For Judaism to outlive and develop, Jews needs to proceed to reconstruct their background according to alterations in social, political, and cultural stipulations, generating new literature and liturgy, including and getting rid of customs and traditions. All Jews - conventional and liberal, non secular and secular - can play a component in that reconstruction.

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Extra info for Judaism As a Civilization: Toward a Reconstruction of American-Jewish Life

Sample text

It is possible to discern a deep current of personal mysticism—an echo of Spinoza’s awe at moments of immortality in this life, a sense that one’s individual life ultimately belongs, at its best and most creative, to the ver y web of the universe, to its ongoing createdness and creativeness. In his public self Kaplan was the cap­ tain of the ship of American Jewish life, the one who defined how that vessel was to be built, in which direction it should sail, and the cur­ rents toward which it had to head to be part of the joyous regatta of his day and the day thereafter.

Ahad Ha-Am, from whom Kaplan learned much, could content himself with extolling the rôle of religion in the past and making its meaning in the present a blend of moral passion and mystique about the utter uniqueness of the Jews. Horace Kallen, Kaplan’s contempo­ rar y, had an even greater share in insisting that America ought to be a countr y of plural cultures; for him, contemporar y Jewishness meant a thoroughly secular ethnicity. Kallen’s Jewish definitions were close to those of Simon Dubnow, the older contemporar y who was then rewriting Jewish histor y as the stor y of a secular nation that, at its most authentic, was a worldwide Diaspora.

This unparalleled sense of unity was accom­ panied by an implicit confidence in the validity of that which kept them united, and by a self-esteem which rendered them imper vi­ ous to the derision heaped upon them. Nothing shor t of a spiritual cataclysm could so radically have changed the Jew’s attitude toward his heritage. The forces at work in the present-day environment must have completely shattered the foundations of his faith in the wor thwhileness of being a Jew. On what was that faith based?

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