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Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century

A Biography of Mordecai M. Kaplan

Mel Scult

American History, Biography, Jewish Studies, Jewish Thought

American Jewish Civilization Series

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Paperback
Published: December 1994
ISBN: 9780814322802
Pages: 440 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 43 black and white images
Review

This richly detailed, lucid biography . . . is a model of objectivity and judicious empathy that explodes false preconceptions about Kaplan and fills a large gap in modern Jewish intellectual history.

— Robert M. Seltzer

Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century is the first critical examination of the early life of Mordecai Caplet—the sources of his inspiration, the evolution of his thought as a religious ideologue, and his inner struggles.

Kaplan is perhaps the most important Jewish thinker to appear on the American scene in the last one hundred years. Arriving in the United States as a boy, growing up in New York City, becoming thoroughly Americanized, he struggled to find ways of making Judaism compatible with the American experience and the modern temper.

Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century returns to the freshness of Kaplan's earliest formulations and concludes with the publication of Judaism as a Civilization in 1934. Based on a mass of unpublished letters, sermons, and a twenty-seven volume journal, this richly textured biography reappraises Kaplan's significance and offers an original and intimate look at the man, his mind, and his work.

Mel Scult is a professor emeritus of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College and a professor emeritus of history at City University of New York, Graduate Center.

A major achievement . . . Scult brings his subject to life with consummate care in the context of the personalities, institutions, and issues which shaped and were shaped by him-thereby helping us to appreciate anew how much American Jews and American Judaism today still wrestle with Kaplan's immense legacy.

– Arnold M. Eisen, Stanford University

This richly detailed, lucid biography . . . is a model of objectivity and judicious empathy that explodes false preconceptions about Kaplan and fills a large gap in modern Jewish intellectual history.

– Robert M. Seltzer, Hunter College, City University of New York