|June 1, 2012 / 11 Sivan, 5772
A Very Human Kaplan [3rd installment]
Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983) was ordained at JTS and served as a member of its faculty for over fifty years. He is also the founder of Reconstructionism.
Part of our difficulty in life is that we often know what we ought to do but don’t do it. In the first selection below, Mordecai Kaplan reveals in his diary that he suffers from the same difficulty as the rest of us. It is somewhat reassuring to see that even the great people among us share our problems. The other problem we often suffer from is ambivalence. The diary is particularly valuable because it reflects different and often conflicting moods. In the second selection Kaplan muses on his ambivalence about capitalism and communism. This entry was written in the early thirties. Kaplan was attracted to the socialist theory because of its obvious ethical content. (It is ironic that he always had congregants who were wealthy though in his heart of hearts he saw himself as quite radical when it came to economic matters.)
In the selection below Kaplan uses the term salvation to designate the goal of religion. Kaplan frequently spoke of God as the Power that makes for salvation. He thought that religion ought to bring out the best in us but alas we all fall short.
I can't do what I tell others to do
July 20, 1934
From the apparently little effect which all these exalted ideas about salvation seem to have upon me personally (considering how far I am from doing the best, etc.), I began to suspect the value of those ideas. But then I recalled two facts which reconciled me to the paradox of urging something upon others which has but little effect on myself. First, the fact clearly pointed out by Aristotle that a desirable state of character cannot be attained through knowledge merely. It calls for long and arduous habituation, and not having being habituated to live my ideas I am condemned to keep on talking about them. Secondly, physicians who are cardiacs and consumptives are said to have an advantage over those who are well in having first hand knowledge of the diseases they try to cure.
Being Ambivalent - From Mordecai Menahem Kaplan
July 25, 1934
It seems that the only way a man in my position can manage to exist is deliberately to split his personality and lead a sort of Jekyll and Hyde existence. Otherwise I am likely to go insane or be a complete failure. All this fine talk about integrating one's personality is mere piffle. That doesn't mean to say I shall not wax enthusiastic about it, but I shall do it with that part of my personality which is bourgeois and parasitic. There will undoubtedly continue to operate a certain osmosis between the two personalities in me, but I must recognize the class struggle as existing between them no less than between the capitalists and the proletariats. I believe I shall be better off if I henceforth identify them as two separate entities even to the extent of naming them as though they were two distinct persons. I shall call one Mordecai (the old Adam) and the other Menahem (the regenerate me). Mordecai is a liberal bourgeois. Menahem is an out and out Communist.
Do you find yourself ambivalent about basic religious issues? Does this ambivalence feel uncomfortable? Kaplan had doubts about communism though he admired its ethical foundations. What do you think those doubts might have been?
This week's special commentary was written by Mel Scult, Kaplan’s biographer, professor emeritus from the City University and the editor of selections from Kaplan’s twenty–seven volume diary entitled "Communings of the Spirit."
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Leadership - Innovation - Community
|Understanding the Haftarot:|
An Everyperson's Guide
In this stimulating and unusual book Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of FJMC, provides the reader with the context to understand how the haftarot were organized, why they might have been selected and suggests reasons for finding meaning and value.
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Intermarriage: Concepts & Strategies for Families and Synagogue Leaders
If family members and community leaders wish to become engaged in the process of Keruv they often need to ask, "Does Keruv have an ideology and theology? And if so what is it?" Then they need to learn how to respond to intermarriage from the perspective of both gender and religion. This publication reflects the most current thinking about intermarriage to date and attempts to provide family members and community leaders with the needed understanding to effectively work with intermarrieds or potential intermarrieds.
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|It's time for Build-A-Pair
The best way to teach about tefillin!
The "Build a Pair" Program is a comprehensive and fun learning program to introduce 5th, 6th or 7th graders to the joy and mitzvah of Tefillin in Jewish life.
Multiple components interplay to explore the religious significance, the construction of, and the practice of "laying" Tefillin.
A comprehensive education program with videos helps the religious school teach students the meaning of Tefillin in Jewish life and practice.
Students practice writing their Hebrew/Jewish names and the SHEMA (first line) to insert into pre-made wooden Tefillin boxes.
Students decorate the boxes in any creative way they wish, allowing for personal expression.
Students either compete or cooperate in writing a "wRAP" song to sing at a Big Event.
The Big Event can be the World Wide Wrap (WWW), sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (FJMC), held annually on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The WWW program is designed to introduce and re-introduce Jewish men [and women] to the significance of "laying" Tefillin.
The "Build a Pair" student program attracts the parents to see their children in their model Tefillin sing the "wRap" songs, allowing two generations (or more!) to join in the mitzvah together, and to let the students' sing their "wRAP" song for an appreciative audience.
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