Reconstructionist Rabbis Form Splinter Group Over Decision to Allow Intermarried Rabbis

Marriage decision 'muddled the definition of what it means for a rabbi to have a Jewish family, says spokesperson for newly-formed Beit Kaplan.

A sign for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania.
Wikimedia Commons

Nineteen Reconstructionist rabbis are forming their own group partly to protest the movement’s recent decision to allow intermarried rabbis.

In a statement Thursday, the rabbis announced the formation of Beit Kaplan - the Rabbinic Partnership for Jewish Peoplehood, which they described as an “educational consortium and resource for rabbis, congregations, and lay people wishing to continue the work and vision of Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan.” A Conservative-ordained rabbi, Kaplan founded Reconstructionist Judaism in the 1950s.

In the statement, Rabbi Shoshana Hantman, the group’s spokeswoman, was quoted as saying the new group will represent those “who adhere to a more traditional Kaplanian reading of Reconstructionist Judaism.” She said the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s recent decision to permit intermarried rabbis, which made it the only denomination outside Secular Humanistic Judaism and Renewal to do so, “muddled the definition of what it means for a rabbi to have a Jewish family.”

The intermarriage policy shift was not the only factor that spurred the group’s formation, according to the statement. Other “contributing factors” include a desire to “affirm connections to the Jewish people globally, including in Israel.”

In what appears to be an effort to distinguish itself from Reconstructionism’s existing institutions, the news release emphasizes that the rabbis “unequivocally reject any movement to delegitimize Israel in the community of nations.”

While the Reconstructionist movement has made no statements in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, several Reconstructionist rabbis are active in Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports BDS. Rabbi Linda Holtzman, a faculty member of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, serves on JVP’s board of directors.