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From Ideology to Liturgy
Reconstructionist Worship and American Liberal Judaism

By Eric Caplan

From Ideology to Liturgy
Hardback, 413 pages £46.00
Published: 2002
ISBN: 9780878204502
Format: 241mm x 165mm
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Subjects: Cultural and Social Studies, Hebrew Union College Press, Philosophy and Religion
Series: Monographs of the Hebrew Union College

This study examines Reconstructionism's interpretation and adaptation of the traditional Jewish liturgy and creation of new prayer texts to convey and express its changing ideology.

Liturgical creativity has been a hallmark of Reconstructionism since its founding by Mordecai Kaplan (1881-1983) in the 1930s. All facets of the movement's liturgical materials are analyzed, including translations, supplementary readings, commentaries, rubrics, and layout. After an examination of Kaplan's life and thought, especially those facets that are most relevant to understanding his liturgical work, the author analyzes the first Reconstructionist liturgies, published between 1941 and 1963. He then summarizes institutional developments within Reconstructionism from the publication of Judaism as a Civilization (1934) until the founding of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1968, and then from 1968 to the present.

Caplan devotes an entire chapter to an examination of the rites that comprise the new series of Reconstructionist prayerbooks, Kol Haneshamah. They are compared to the contemporaneous liturgies of Reform, Conservative, and Renewal Judaism, which in turn are compared with their 1940s predecessors to illustrate developments within American Liberal Judaism in general.

As a general statement of the direction of Reconstructionist liturgy as
compared with other movements within Judaism, this book could serve as
an overview. It raises interesting questions of translation and presentation
of materials. There is also an interesting segment on the comparison of
Reconstructionism with Aleph, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Caplan
raises good observations of commonality as well as social merging that
occur between these two schools of thought. [...] the final section on Jewish Renewal is a nice projection into future possibilities between Renewal and Reconstructionism.
Rachael Turkienicz

- University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 74, Number 1, Winter 2004/2005

Eric Caplan is Associate Professor and Director of the Jewish Teacher Training Program at McGill University in Montreal.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 413 pages
 241mm x 165mm

BIC Code:
  PHI022000, REL000000, REL040000, REL040010, REL040090, REL051000, SOC049000
 Hebrew Union College Press


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