Rabbi Eugene Kohn & the Reconstructionist Movement

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Rabbi Eugene Kohn, a founder of the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement and managing editor of its periodical, The Reconstructionist, until he retired in 1960, died yesterday at the Geriatric Center of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, Queens, where he had lived for the last year. He was 90 years old. Rabbi Kohn, whose specialty was religious philosophy, was co‐editor of prayer books published by the movement and wrote a number of books, including "Religious Humanism," "Good to Be a Jew," "The Future of Judaism in America" and "A Manual for Teaching Biblical History." Unlike the three main branches of Judaism, the Reconstructionist movement stresses the cultural and communal unity of Judaism, rather than its theology. An offshoot of Conservative Judaism, the movement has 10,000 members around the country 4nd founded its own rabbinical college in Philadelphia in 1968. ~Blog Written by Priya Perumal

Rabbi Eugene Kohn & The Reconstructionist Movement











Rabbi Eugene Kohn was born in Newark, New Jersey on January 28, 1887. His parents, Siegfried and Bertha Kohn, were both Czech Jews. In 1907 he graduated with a BA from NYU before completing his education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1912. He went to work in Baltimore, MD between the years 1912 and 1918. There he met his wife, Mildred, whom he married on June 16, 1915, at Ashe Chesed Synagogue. The wedding was officiated by Jacob, his brother, a Conservative Rabbi. During Eugene and Mildred’s marriage, they had four children, Rebecca, Gustave, Theresa, and Aaron.


His service as a congregational rabbi was marked by short tenures. He served congregations throughout New Jersey, Wisconsin, Ohio, and New York. Kohn’s greater success came with his role as an editor for the Reconstructionist magazine. He gained the position through his connection to Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan. Kaplan had penned the book Judaism as a Civilization (1934). Kaplan had become interested in the then-burgeoning field of sociology and the way it defined “civilization”. In his book, he argued that Judaism was the consolidation of religion, culture, language, literature, and social organization. Due to its positive reception Kaplan, Kohn, Milton Steinberg, and Ira Eisenstein established the magazine.


He was the first managing editor of the Reconstructionist Journal from 1938 until his retirement in 1963. His role in the formation of the Reconstructionist movement was often a literary one. Rabbi Kohn edited works such as The Reconstructionist Prayer Book (1948), Faith of America (1951), and American Jewry – The Tercentenary and After (1955). He went on to write The Future of Judaism in America (1934), Religion and Humanity (1953), and Religious Humanism(1953). After a long life that included popularizing the Reconstructionist movement, he died on, April 1, 1977, on Long Island.


The Reconstructionist movement views Judaism as a progressively evolving civilization in which Jewish peoplehood takes priority. In an ever-changing world, Judaism must adapt to the transformations outside the community to maintain continuity. An example of this can be seen in Rabbi Kaplan’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. A ritual that is very common to witness today shocked members of the community back in 1922. It presented Reconstructionists as more egalitarian compared to the Orthodox movement. Members of the movement not only engage in the religion but also the values that come with Jewish culture. This includes prioritizing Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) by engaging in community activities that help to achieve the goal. Rabbi Kohn was very passionate about his movement and strongly believed it could help preserve Judaism in the modern age.



Blog Written by Priya Perumal






RECHCIGL, MILOSLAV JR. Notable Czech and Slovak Americans. AUTHORHOUSE, 2021.







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