Communings of the Spirit, Vol. III

By :  Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary Posted On Dec 7, 2020 | Author Conversations: Between the Lines | Conservative Judaism

A discussion with Dr. Mel Scult

Mordecai M. Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionism, and the rabbi who initiated the first Bat Mitzvah, also produced the longest Jewish diary on record. In 27 volumes, running from 1913 to 1978, Kaplan shares with us not only his reaction to the great events of his time, but also his very personal thoughts on every aspect of religion and Jewish life.

In this volume, editor and Kaplan biographer Mel Scult presents Kaplan contemplating the momentous events of the 1940s. We experience Kaplan’s horror at the persecution of the European Jews as well as his joy at the founding of the State of Israel. Above all else, Kaplan was concerned with the survival and welfare of the Jewish people. And yet he also believed deeply that the wellbeing of the Jewish people was tied to the safety and security of all peoples.

Dr. Scult discusses how the Kaplan we encounter in this book is deeply passionate as well as reflective, even philosophical—a man of contradictions, but because of that, all the more interesting and important.

This event was sponsored by The JTS Library. Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, JTS, served as moderator.

About Dr. Mel Scult

Dr. Mel Scult is Professor Emeritus at the City University of New York, Brooklyn College. He is a graduate of the Seminary College and holds a PhD from Brandeis University. He has published a biographical study of Mordecai M. Kaplan, as well as three volumes of selections from the 27-volume diary of Kaplan. He has also published an essay on The Jewish Theological Seminary entitled Schechter’s Seminary in the two-volume work Tradition Renewed. Other publications include studies on Mathilde Roth Schechter and Henrietta Szold. He is vice president of the Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood and holds honorary doctorates from The Jewish Theological Seminary and from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.