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American Judaism

From Jewish Buddhist meditation to Hebrew tattooing, and from rock ‘n roll temple services to Jewish disco breakfasts, the nature as well as the structure of American Judaism has truly transformed over the past generation. Rabbi Kaplan has enjoyed researching some of these trends and writing about what is happening, as well as speculating why so much is changing, and why it’s changing in the way it is. This reorientation of American Judaism has been a “bottom up” process resisted by elites who have very reluctantly responded to the demands of the “spiritual marketplace.” As many have noted, the American Jewish denominational structure is weakening at the same time that religious experimentation is increasing and this has lead to innovative approaches to Jewish practices that are fascinating and sometimes even bizarre.

Review essay, review of Robert H. Mnookin’s The Jewish American Paradox: Embracing Choice in a Changing World; Steven R. Weisman’s, The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion; and Jack Wertheimer’s The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today, American Jewish Archives Journal, Vol. 71, No. 1, 2019, pp. 84-92, 

Foreword, David J. Zucker, American Rabbis: Facts and Fiction, 2nd edition (originally published 1998), Wipf & Stock Publishers, June 21, 2019.

“Love as a Source of Hope for the Broken Spirit,” commentary included in Paul Shalom Rhodes’ Pink!, 2016.

“Studying the Next Generation of Jewish Leaders: A Top Rate Study Begins a Herculean Task,” review of Jack Wertheimer’s The New Jewish LeadersH-Judaic, February 2013.

“Maarat Ayin: Eduardo Saverin’s decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship,” The Jewish Journal, May 23, 2012.

“Op-Ed: Ordaining cantors is mostly good for congregations,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 7, 2012. [reprinted widely]

“Judaism(s) in Contemporary America,” The Wiley-Blackwell History of Jews and Judaism, edited by Alan T. Levenson, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

“Contemporary Forms of Judaism,” The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture, edited by Judith Baskin and Kenneth Seekin, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

“Judaism: Sectarian Movements,” The Encyclopedia of Religion in America, CQ Press, 2010.

“South Georgia Shul Marks First Adult Bat Mitzvah,” Atlanta Jewish Times, October 24, 2008.

“Jewish Theological Seminary,” “Yeshiva University,” “Stephen S. Wise,” and “Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion,” The Encyclopedia of New York State, Syracuse University Press, 2005.

“Trends in American Judaism from 1945 to the Present,” Cambridge Companion to American Judaism, Cambridge University Press, 2005.

"Response," Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought, Vol. 53, No. 3-4, Summer/Fall, 2004.

  • My response to a symposium entitled “Judaism and the Future of Religion in America: Dana Evan Kaplan’s American Reform Judaism"

“Judaism, The Second Half of the Twentieth Century,” The Encyclopaedia of Judaism, Supplement One, 2003.

  • Outstanding Reference Source: American Library Association

  • Outstanding Academic Title: Choice

“The Sociological Study of Conservative Judaism in America,” review of Jews in the Center: Conservative Synagogues and their Members (Jack Wertheimer, Ed.), American Jewish Archives Journal, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Vol. 54, No. 1, 2002.

“Autonomy, Personal,” The Reader’s Guide to Judaism: A Bibliographic Guide to English-Language Books and Essays on Judaism, edited by Michael Terry, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2000, pp. 54-55.

  • Nominated for a Jewish Book Award, 2001

“Politics and Piety in the Religious Marketplace,” Congress Monthly, July/August 1999.

“Jewish Religious Life in Colonial America,” Emunah Magazine, Spring-Summer 1998.


"Mourning the Death of a Public Figure," September 22, 2018.

“Alabama’s Reform Jews Need a progressive Israel,” July 29, 2017.

“Social justice and the Mobile grant for alleviation of poverty in Mobile,” May 4, 2017.

"What Passover Means for Alabama's Jewish Population," April 11, 2017.

“A cycling trip through Kerala, India,” February 20, 2017.

“The significance of Hanukkah for Americans,” December 24, 2016.

“In memory of Leonard Cohen,” December 20, 2016.

“Fulfilling a lifelong dream of hearing Bob Dylan right here in Mobile,” November 20, 2016.

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