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Scholar in Residence


Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan offers Scholar in Residence weekend programs for your congregation. Rabbi Kaplan speaks on a variety of interesting subjects, injecting humor and encouraging a great deal of participation.


The talks can focus on one specific theme or can include programs on a number of completely different topics. Many of the programs use PowerPoint or DVD clips.

A number of popular topics are listed below. We can also create a special group of talks and programs to meet your unique needs. 


What will Judaism look like in 25 years? How will the synagogue look in 75 years? Will we even have synagogues? Will online congregations replace brick and mortar structures? Will we all be post-denominational? Will there even be any Reform Jews?

Futures Studies: Futurology or Futurism is the study of postulating possible, probable and preferable futures and the world views that underlie them. Futurology has three P's and a W. The three P's are possible, probable and preferable. It is the W that is so tricky. W is wildcards, which are low probability but high impact events…


We Reform Jews have embraced change with gusto. In just the past four decades think of all the changes we have made – two radically new prayer books, liturgical equality for women including in the clergy, the acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals along with the sanctification of their relationships and their eligibility to become rabbis and cantors, patrilineal descent, and so forth.

We have arrived at a point where many are questioning whether we should have any boundaries at all. After all, since we as a movement have done away with all of these things that used to be prohibited or limited, why not just go all the way and wipe the slate clean?



Hollywood was founded by Eastern European Jewish immigrants who were concerned about the endemic anti-Semitism in American at the time. With some very notable exceptions, they tried to avoid portraying Jews or Judaism in the movies. But over the past 20 years this has completely changed. Virtually every television show has at least one Jewish character and issues connected to Judaism arise frequently. We will watch several fascinating clips and learn about our Judaism from a new perspective.



What is Jewish about Jewish humor? Using plenty of jokes as examples, we will talk about comedy as a mirror of culture. Jewish jokes can reveal a great deal about Jewish character. We will look at the weapons of wit: incongruity and ambiguity, anomaly and actuality. We will apply these ideas to: how Jews relate to God, relations in the synagogue, the fear of antisemitism, the pull of assimilation, the love of learning, the passion for arguing, our relationships with our mothers and fathers, and many more.



We all have our lists of what those challenges are and how to face them. I will present what I believe are our highest priorities:


Belief in a Personal God - We need to define what we as Jews believe about God in order to clarify the direction that Reform Judaism needs to take.  What do we believe about God, Torah and Israel?


Commitment to Ritual Observance - How can the Reform movement compel a high level of observance, whether ritual or ceremony—without a compelling theology?


Creating Inspiring Worship - If Judaism is to become a thriving religion, the prayer experience needs to be emotionally fulfilling. How can we worship in a way that is inspiring?


Determining Our Boundaries - As we continue to integrate into American society, how do we maintain clear lines of what is acceptable religiously and what is not?


Reinforcing our Values and Ethics - Do we have a unique approach to values that can enrich American society and attract Americans to Reform Judaism as a source of philosophic truth?

"He was wonderful and well received, engaging and erudite! I recommend Dana most highly to any and all who are considering bringing a colleague/scholar who is extremely knowledgeable about the history, philosophy, theology and mores of the American Jewish scene (with special emphasis on Reform Judaism) and is also adept at making his presentations accessible and intelligible to a wide lay audience. Dana was a great choice for us!" 

Rabbi Aaron Benjamin Bisno, Rodef Shalom Congregation

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I know many of us have Scholar In Residence programs and are often in search for a good presenter. We recently had Dana Kaplan (Reform Rabbi, Author/Scholar re Reform/American Judaism) as our Scholar in Residence. He was engaging, funny, personable and quite thought provoking for the congregation. He spoke/taught about the history and current challenges facing our movement. His presentations were an excellent way for the congregation to both affirm its identity and think about what our future does and could look like. He was also a pleasure to have around (a great shmoozer with the congregation). I highly recommend Dana to anyone looking for a Scholar in Res weekend.

Rabbi George Gittleman, Congregation Shomrei Torah

Santa Rosa, California

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