THE JEWISH RECONSTRUCTIONIST FOUNDATION
15 West 86th Street
OTHER RECONSTRUCTIONIST LITERATURE
THE RECONSTRUCTIONIST, a bi-weekly magazine devoted to the
exposition of the Reconstructionist philosophy as applied to current
problems and events.
JUDAISM AS A CIVILIZATION, by Mordecai M. Kaplan, the basic
text of the Reconstructionist philosophy. (Out of print.)
JUDAISM IN TRANSITION, by Mordecai M. Kaplan.
THE MEANING OF GOD IN MODERN JEWISH RELIGION, by
Mordecai M. Kaplan.
JEWISH RECONSTRUCTIONIST PAPERS, ed. by M. M. Kaplan,
a selection of articles and editorials from The Reconstructionist.
THE FUTURE OF JUDAISM IN AMERICA, by Eugene Kohn.
THE MAKING OF THE MODERN JEW, by Milton Steinberg.
CREATIVE JUDAISM, by Ira Eisenstein, a popular presentation of
Judaism As A Civilization.
WHAT WE MEAN BY RELIGION, by Ira Eisenstein, a popular pres-
entation of The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion.
JUDAISM IN A CHANGING CIVILIZATION, by Samuel Dinin.
SHIR HADASH, Supplementary Readings and Prayers for the High
Holidays, edited by Eugene Kohn.
THE NEW HAGGADAH, edited by Mordecai M. Kaplan, Eugene
Kohn and Ira Eisenstein.
THE RECONSTRUCTIONIST VIEWPOINT, by Mordecai M. Kap-
TO BE OR NOT TO BE A JEW, by Milton Steinberg.
TOWARD A GUIDE FOR JEWISH RITUAL USAGE.
To obtain Reconstructionist literature, or further information regarding
the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement, apply to
THE JEWISH RECONSTRUCTIONIST FOUNDATION
15 West Eighty-Sixth Street, New York.
Telephone: SChuyler 4-7000
The Jewish people is passing through a crisis of unprece-
dented violence. Its survival is bound up with the survival
of democracy. But thus far, even among the democratic
nations, its status has been so undefined and ambiguous as
to be destructive of self-respect, and its spiritual life has been
so threatened with disintegration as to be rendered moribund.
In the Middle Ages, Jews were segregated, but they knew
what to live for as Jews. They were self-determined in their
community life; they were governed by their own law, they
were brought up on their own culture and they were sustained
by their own religious faith. But ever since Jews have been
permitted to enter the body politic of the Western democra-
cies and to share the political, economic and cultural interests
of their neighbors, they have found it harder to live as Jews.
On the one hand, they still suffer from various forms of dis-
crimination and prejudice, which put a premium on the de-
nial of their Jewish identity, and, on the other, they lack the
compensatory satisfactions which their forebears derived from
Jewish life. Culturally, if they wish to remain Jews, they
must live in two worlds. Their confidence in the validity of
their religious tradition has been shaken by the impact of
modern thought. Hence the modern Jew hardly knows what
it means to be a Jew. He asks himself why, in the face of
obvious disadvantages, he should remain one. Or, if not
that question, he queries: How be a Jew; how live a Jewish
life under these new conditions? And many, having long
asked these questions in vain, have given up hope of ever
finding an answer. They have become utterly indifferent, if
not antagonistic, to Judaism and its future.
This malady of doubt and discouragement has been
chronic for the last century or more, but in our day it has
become acute. With the anti-Semitic effort to annihilate the
Jewish people, a spirit of panic has taken possession of Jews.
Many of them have sought safety from the danger to which
Jews are exposed by flight from Judaism, through concealing
their Jewish origin or repudiating Jewish loyalty. Others
accept the fact that they are Jews, but accept it with sullen
resignation and are apathetic to all Jewish interests. They
are aroused from their apathy to a momentary concern with
Jewish life only when they are made to feel the impact of
Even those who have faith in the possibilities of Jewish life
are unhappy in their Judaism. They try hard to make Jewish
life worthwhile, but they feel frustrated in this purpose, be-
cause they are so few in number and so divided among them-
selves in their understanding of Judaism. Having no clear
conception of what Judaism means and how it can be main-
tained and fostered, they cling to fragmentary vestiges of the
Judaism of the past, and leave the Judaism of the future to
chance and drift. But to rely exclusively on attachment to
the past is folly. To insure the future, one must reckon in-
telligently with the present situation. Jews must be given
something to live for that can make their present life worth-
while. To combat the forces of destruction and disintegration
Jews must mobilize all the available forces of reconstruction
Indeed, some efforts have been made to provide for the
future of Judaism by reckoning with changed conditions. But
the programs that have so far been advanced have proved
inadequate. This does not mean that those efforts have been
valueless. All of them have some merit, but they have suc-
ceeded at best in finding only partial answers to the problem.
There is one type of solution which seeks to put new life
into the synagogue. The proponents of this type maintain
that we need a revival of religion. This is certainly true.
But what they fail to see is that the synagogue, as at present
constituted, reaches only a limited number of Jews and fails
to satisfy the religious needs even of those whom it reaches.
There is a second type of solution, which is based on the
modern nationalist interpretation of Judaism. This solution
places all its hopes on achieving an autonomous national life
for the Jewish people in Palestine. But it has no program
of Jewish living for those Jews who elect to remain in the
diaspora and who identify themselves permanently with
American life, or with the life of whatever other nation affords
them an opportunity for living freely as Jews.
We of the Reconstructionist movement, deeply disturbed
by the destruction that has been wrought in Jewish life, but
retaining our faith in God and in the possibility of the rebirth
of the Jewish people and of Judaism, present the following
platform as our contribution to the reconstruction of Jewish
life. Our platform contains both a statement of the principles
which we believe should guide our efforts at reconstruction,
and a program of action based on those principles. We com-
mend it to the earnest consideration of all who cherish the
welfare of the Jewish people and strive for the advancement
THE PRINCIPLES OF RECONSTRUCTIONISM
I. The Meaning of Judaism
Judaism is a religious civilization, the civilization of the
Jewish people. As a civilization, Judaism embraces all the
social, cultural and spiritual activities of Jewish life. It con-
sists of nationhood, religion, historical continuity, language
and literature, law, mores, folkways and art.
Judaism is a religious civilization. Faith in God has always
permeated, and should continue to permeate, every phase of
Jewish life. Jewish religion should instil in the Jew that
courage and hope which come with the awareness of God in
nature and in history. It should awaken in the Jew a yearn-
ing to serve God by living in accordance with His law of
justice and mercy.
The conception of Judaism as a religious civilization should
not be interpreted as excluding from participation in Jewish
life Jews who are indifferent to Jewish religion- Though they
thereby fail to grasp the full significance of Judaism, their
contribution to Jewish life should not be rejected.
The term "Jewish people" denotes the historic group which
originated in ancient Palestine and which has maintained an
uninterrupted existence to our own day. The Jewish people
may be considered a nation in that it exhibits the characteris-
tics of a national group: a sense of kinship, common memo-
ries, common interests and a common will to continue its col-
lective life and preserve its distinctive civilization. Jewish
nationhood has never been dependent solely on statehood. It
has expressed itself mainly as loyalty to the ideals, purposes
and standards of communal and personal life inherent in Ju-
daism as a religious civilization.
The Jewish civilization can therefore function wherever
there are Jews; it assumes different forms in different coun-
tries according to the size of the Jewish population, the char-
acter of the general population and other environmental cir-
cumstances. Only in the Jewish national home, in Palestine,
under conditions of autonomy, can the Jewish civilization
have full freedom of development. In multi-national states,
Judaism should function as the civilization of a minority na-
tionality. In America, and other countries of similar political
structure, the Jewish group should constitute a religious-cul-
Due to the diverse political, cultural and social conditions
under which Jews must henceforth live, Judaism cannot be
based, as in the past, on uniformity of belief and practice
secured through coercion. It must be based on unity of pur-
pose, achieved through voluntary consent the purpose to
perpetuate the life of the Jewish people and to enable its
civilization to flourish. Such unity affords room for Jews to
differ in the beliefs by which they sustain their loyalty, and in
the specific forms through which they affirm and express that
To insure the integrity of Jewish civilization under condi-
tions of voluntarism, it will be necessary to establish demo-
cratic forms of community life, to apply social sanctions, to
foster a common consciousness through education in Judaism
and through the effective use of common symbols, and to
encourage Jews to collaborate in common enterprises.
II. The Place of Palestine in Judaism
The Jewish people has a historic connection with Palestine,
which entitles it to establish there a national Jewish common-
wealth. In Palestine Jewish civilization took shape, and
Palestine owes to the Jewish people its historical and geo-
graphical identity. This historic connection of the Jewish
people with Palestine is ack owledged in the Balfour Declar-
ation and in the San Remo Treaty.
It is impossible for the Je
recognition in the eyes of
comes, in fact as well as in
The Jewish civilization c,
less it is centered in Palestir
the advantages of majority
building of Palestine as a J
life in the diaspora be made
building of Palestine offers
creative action among Jew:
participation in such action
tion wherever Jews live.
wish people to achieve status and
the nations unless Palestine be-
right, the Jewish national home.
nnot continue to be creative un-
e, where it can function with all
status. Only through the up-
ewish national home can Jewish
to flourish once again. The up-
:he best opportunity for common
Small over the world. The very
helps to preserve Jewish civiliza-
In view of these considerations, participation in the Zionist
movement becomes a necessary expression of Jewish loyalty.
III. The Place of Judaism in American Democracy.
Creative Jewish life is possible in America.
The nature of American democracy allows for the religious
and cultural expression of minority groups.
Any theory or program for America that would destroy
group individuality is subversive of the American tradition of
Loyalty on the part of the Jews to their religious civiliza-
tion is unimpeachably consistent with Americanism.
Likewise wholehearted self-identification with the life of
America is entirely consistent with Judaism.
As American Jews, therefore, we participate both in the
American civilization, which we share with our fellow-Ameri-
cans, and in the Jewish civilization, which we share with Jews
throughout the world.
In living Judaism as a religious civilization in America,
both our Americanism and our Judaism are enhanced
through their interaction and mutual influence.
IV. The Social Structure of American-Jewish Life.
If Jewish civilization is to function in the American en-
vironment, it needs what it has always and everywhere had
in the past, a definite social structure.
Only an organized Jewish community can confer on the
individual Jew the sense of status and self-respect and can
enable him to adjust himself wholesomely to his environment.
Only an organized community can maintain Judaism and
develop its cultural, ethical and religious values.
To meet the conditions of American life and of Judaism,
the Jewish community has to be organized on a voluntary,
democratic basis, and has to include all Jews who wish to
participate in the organized life of the Jewish people. In
keeping with the spirit of democracy, it is necessary to evolve
forms of communal life that would vest in the rank and file
of Jewry the ultimate authority and responsibility for all col-
lective Jewish action.
It should be one of the purposes of Jewish community or-
ganization to bring American Jewry into active collaboration
with other Jewries and particularly with the Jewish com-
munity of Palestine.
THE RECONSTRUCTIONIST PROGRAM
I. The Social Structure of American-Jewish Life.
All Jewish institutions and organizations, in any locality,
which contribute to the perpetuation of Jewish life should be
federated in local community councils. Such councils should
therefore include all the local Jewish religious, cultural and
welfare institutions. Organizations serving the same function
should be allied in some form of cooperative association.
These functional associations, through their representatives,
should then constitute the Jewish Community Council.
The Council should be organized on a constitutional basis.
The constituent bodies should surrender as much of their au-
tonomy as is necessary for the common good, and retain the
right to pursue those special interests which do not conflict
with the interests of the community as a whole. Among the
functions of the local Jewish community should be the
a) To maintain a complete register of the Jewish population and a
record of vital statistics.
b) To gather and disseminate information concerning all matters
pertaining to Jewish life.
c) To protect the civic rights of Jews and to guide the public
relations of the Jewish community.
d) To help Jews overcome economic difficulties due to dis-
e) To maintain and support a comprehensive system of Jewish
- education and to foster Jewish cultural and recreational
f) To effect the participation of American Jewry in the upbuilding
g) To organize and conduct local philanthropies in a Jewish spirit.
h) To conduct efforts on behalf of national and international
i) To provide for the maintenance of the high ethical standards
characteristic of Jewish tradition and for the application of.
those standards to changing social conditions.
All local Jewish communities and all nation-wide Jewish
organizations should be federated in a representative Ameri-
can Jewish assembly to determine the united action of Jewry
on problems requiring nation-wide participation.
Such an assembly should eventually be represented on a
world-wide Jewish organization to direct and conduct all Jew-
ish activities calling for world-wide cooperation.
Until such time as a truly representative national assembly
of local communities can be established, the effort should be
made to unify the work of national organizations operating
in the same field by eliminating duplication of services and
competition for funds, power and prestige, and by making
these national organizations representative of Jewish interests
and responsive to Jewish public opinion. These functional
organizations should then be represented on a national coun-
cil to deal with such problems as transcend the sphere of their
All Jews should seek a conception of God which is free
from superstition, and which is integrated with their general
outlook on the universe. Such a conception should inspire
them with faith in the possibilities of human life and with the
power to retain, in all vicissitudes of fortune, an unimpaired
confidence in life's worth. The quest for an adequate con-
ception of God should be expected to yield varied results;
not all Jews will conceive of God in the same terms.
Traditional forms of Jewish ritual observance should be
maintained, if they are spiritually adequate or can be ren-
dered adequate through reinterpretation. Those observances
which do not lend themselves to reinterpretation should be
New forms of worship giving expression to newly felt needs
should be introduced into the services of the synagogue and
the home. .
A clearly defined regimen of Jewish religious habits and
practices should be developed. It should be consonant with
the requirements both of Jewish historic continuity and of
The Synagogue, as an institution, functions through the
medium of the congregation. The Synagogue should activate
the religious character of the Jewish civilization. Of all
Jewish institutions, the Synagogue is the one which is most
deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and which has the necessary
resources for advancing Jewish religion. The Synagogue,
moreover, should enlarge its scope to include fellowship and
Jewish culture among its interests.
The Synagogue should not confine itself, however, to the
Jewish interests of its own members. It should also assume
responsibility for mobilizing its membership in the service of
all Jewish interests. It should encourage inter-congregational
collaboration and cooperation with non-congregational Jew-
ish institutions and organizations for the common end of ad-
vancing Jewish civilization and enhancing its spiritual value
for the individual and mankind.
To make Jewish life worthwhile, Jews should avail them-
selves fully of the spiritual resources of their rich cultural
heritage and transmit them to their children.
But, in order that Jewish studies shall serve their purpose,
they must be directed not only to a knowledge of the Jewish
past, but also to an understanding of the special problems
that the Jew has to face in a changing world.
A Jewish educational program should provide for scien-
tific research into the Jewish past. It should help Jews to
interpret their tradition in terms relevant to contemporary
life. It should prepare American Jews for intelligent partici-
pation in the upbuilding of the Jewish National Home in
Palestine, and in the development of Jewish communal life
in the diaspora. It should encourage the study and use of the
Hebrew language as a means of maintaining the continuity
of Jewish life and the integrity of the Jewish people.
All study which is designed to help Jews meet the issues of
life in a spirit consistent with the highest ethical and religious
ideals comes properly within the sphere of Jewish education.
Such study is a religious duty of the individual, and its pro-
motion an essential responsibility of the Jewish community.
IV. Jewish Culture and Art
Jewish life should be made more beautiful and interesting
through systematic endeavor to realize the possibilities in-
herent in Judaism for esthetic satisfaction.
Every area of Jewish living, such as the home, the Syna-
gogue, the Jewish Community Center and other institutions
should be utilized as an opportunity for creating a milieu that
is aesthetically Jewish.
All ceremonial objects, such as the mezuzah, the candle-
sticks, the Seder plate and numerous similar objects in the
home, should be rendered as beautiful as artistic love can
Books, records, pictures, dealing with Jewish themes should
be included among the appurtenances of a Jewish home;
and, as far as possible, something of the Jewish spirit should
be discernible in the interior decoration. The architecture
of the Synagogue and other public buildings should reflect the
aspirations of the Jewish people throughout its career. The
plan, the facade and the interior should be designed with a
view to giving symbolic and pictorial form to the purposes
for which those buildings are intended.
Religious ritual should be enriched with fine music and
Exhibitions of art produced by Palestinian or diaspora
Jewish artists, and festivals of music and the dance should
Encouragement should be given, by means of fellowships
and scholarships, to creative artists and writers who show
promise of contributing to the artistic life of the Jewish
V. Judaism and Social Justice
As a religious civilization, Judaism should impel Jews to
seek the embodiment of ethical ideals and spiritual values in
all human relations. It should sanction efforts in behalf of
a social order based upon the coordination of individual lib-
erty with the well-being of the community.
Problems of social and economic justice and projects di-
rected toward the abolition of exploitation, poverty, war and
other social evils should be the concern of the synagogue and
of other Jewish bodies and agencies that influence public
Jews should align themselves with all strivings for a more
equitable distribution of economic goods and services. They
should protest against the exploitation or oppression of any
human being. They should insist that every man, woman
and child is entitled to the full life and to every possible op-
portunity for self-expression. They should combat all forms
of political and economic discrimination that are practised on
grounds of race, religion or national origin.
Jews should further the extension of democracy to the eco-
nomic field and the participation in economic responsibility
and power of all who do the world's work. They should
favor the socialization of natural resources and public utilities
and their administration in the interest of all the people. They
should support the regulation by government of all large scale
industry with a view to the general welfare.
Jews should seek the enlargement of facilities for free edu-
cation for all and the creation of additional means of making
available the cultural treasures of mankind to millions who
now have no access to them.
Jews should espouse the cause of peace. But when the
nation with which they are identified is involved in a war of
defense against aggression, it is their duty to place their lives
and possessions at the disposal of their country.
Jews should envisage the Kingdom of God as a world-wide,
all-embracing community, and should encourage all action
looking to the establishment of a world commonwealth of
THE JEWISH RECONSTRUCTIONIST
Publishes The Reconstructionist-a bi-weekly magazine, published from
October to June (20 issues)
Publishes literature which helps to vitalize Jewish religious life.
Issues a weekly syndicate to the Anglo-Jewish Press, expounding the
Issues pamphlets promoting the Reconstructionist attitude toward the
community, toward Palestine, toward education, religion and culture.
Sponsors events of esthetic and cultural Jewish content.
Organizes Reconstructionist societies and study groups to extend and
promote membership in the Reconstructionist movement.
Membership is $5.00 per year, which includes one year's subscription
to The Reconstructionist.
THE JEWISH RECONSTRUCTIONIST FOUNDATION,
15 West 86th Street, New York, N. Y.
Enclosed please find $5.00 Annual Membership in the Jewish
Reconstructionist Foundation (includes one year's sub-
scription to The Reconstructionist).
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