Dana Evan Kaplan

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Dana Evan Kaplan (born October 29, 1960) is a Reform rabbi known for his writings on Reform Judaism and American Judaism. He has advocated for a theologically coherent approach to Reform Judaism rather than encouraging a pluralistic approach to belief without limits.[1]


Kaplan was born in Manhattan and grew up in New York until the age of fourteen, when he moved to Waterbury, Connecticut. He studied at Ramaz School, Friends Seminary, and Chase Collegiate School. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yeshiva University, received rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem in 1994 and a PhD in History from Tel Aviv University in 1997.

Kaplan is known to be an avid scuba diver with dives in Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Honduras, and many other countries. He has trekked in Nepal where he circled the Annapurna mountain range.[citation needed]


Kaplan first became known following the 2003 publication of his book American Reform Judaism: An Introduction. He has also written on other subjects, including American Jewish history and Jews in various diaspora communities. Kaplan, influenced by Rodney Stark and other sociologists of religion who apply the Rational Choice Theory to the study of American religious denominationalism, argued that the American Reform Movement needed to raise their demands in order to increase the production of "collective religious commodities," the "religious goods" essential for the continued vitality of the religious group. Kaplan argued that concept of religious autonomy, while admirable in theory, had produced a negative cycle of apathy and alienation in Reform temples throughout the United States.[2] The book was featured as the subject of a panel discussion in Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought with responses from leaders of the various American Jewish denominations.[3]

His most recent book, Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal, has been alternatively praised for taking new approaches to Jewish religiosity seriously[4][5] and condemned for what some have seen as an excessively non-judgmental approach to trivial irrelevancies.[6][7] Kaplan argued that changing social trends had completely transformed the nature of non-Orthodox Judaism in America. The American Jewish religious denominations were no longer as important as they had been in the thirty or thirty-five year period following World War II and were increasingly irrelevant in a time of post-denominationalism. He credits the "re-engagement with spirituality" as providing the motivation for new forms of Jewish life, which are described in the last three chapters of the book: "Radical Responses to the Suburban Experience," "The Popularization of Jewish Mystical Outreach," and "Herculean Efforts at Synagogue Renewal." Rabbi Lance Sussman, writing in The Jewish Review of Books, praised the final three chapters: "Here, Kaplan is clearly breaking new ground and writing a new narrative for twenty-first century American Judaism."



  • "Reform Judaism", Encyclopaedia Judaica, revised edition, 2007. Volume 17. pp. 165–183.
  • "Judaism: Sectarian Movements", The Encyclopedia of Religion in America, CQ Press, Volume 2, 2010, pp. 445–464
  • "Contemporary Forms of Judaism", The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture, Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp 445–464.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kaplan, Dana. "The Theological Roots of Reform Judaism’s Woes". The Forward. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  2. ^ American Reform Judaism: An Introduction, Rutgers University Press, 2003), page 67.
  3. ^ Judaism and the Future of Religion in America: Dana Evan Kaplan’s American Reform Judaism Responses by: Lawrence Grossman, Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, David Ellenson, Jack Wertheimer, Richard Hirsh, Arthur Waskow, Dana Evan Kaplan. Issue no. 211/212, Volume 53, Numbers 3-4, Summer/Fall 2004 pp 163-206.
  4. ^ Valerie Thaler, The American Jewish Archives Journal, Volume LXII Number 1, 2010
  5. ^ Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal, Geffen, David, The Jerusalem Post Magazine, December 3, 2009
  6. ^ Goldman, David P., First Things, February 1, 2010, "The Hitchhicker’s Guide," Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal
  7. ^ Rosner, Shmuel, Azure, Autumn 5771, 2010, No. 42 "Plug-and-Play Judaism," Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal


  • Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal, New York: Columbia University Press, June 2009. ISBN 978-0-231-13729-4
  • Cambridge Companion to American Judaism, Editor. New York and Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-521-82204-6
  • American Reform Judaism: An Introduction. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2003. Named "A Significant Jewish Book" by Reform Judaism magazine, winter 2003. 2nd printing June 2005. ISBN 978-0-8135-3219-6
  • Platforms and Prayer Books: Theological and Liturgical Perspectives on Reform Judaism, Editor. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. ISBN 978-0-7425-1548-2
  • Contemporary Debates in American Reform Judaism: Conflicting Visions, Editor. New York and London: Routledge, 2001. ISBN 978-0-415-92628-7

External links[edit]