Rabbi Lane Steinger helps us understand Reconstructionist Judaism and its view of Jewish history


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

Of the four main branches of American Judaism, Reconstructionism is the smallest and possibly the least understood. Only one Reconstructionist congregation, Shir Hadash, is located in Missouri and it’s here in St. Louis.

Reconstructionist Judaism

At its core, Reconstructionism is based on the philosophy of one individual, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan. Kaplan believed that Judaism was a “religious civilization” emerging from the history and culture of the Jewish people.

“Much of the history of Judaism in the modern era can be seen as a struggle between opposing forces. On the one hand, social, political and ideological forces have drawn Jews away from Judaism, while on the other, committed Jews have devoted themselves to the task of persuading other Jews to remain Jewish,” said Rabbi Lane Steinger.

Steinger served as rabbi of Shir Hadash from 2009-2016 and continues to teach and participate in the congregation as its rabbi emeritus. Prior to joining Shir Hadash, he was the regional director of the Midwest Council, Union for Reform Judaism, from 1996-2009. He has also served congregations in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Godfrey, Ill.

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Who is a Reconstructionist Jew?

According to Rabbi Kaplan’s definition, a Reconstructionist Jew is one who considers Judaism to be “the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people. Identifies with the Reconstructionist movement, and, hopefully, affiliates with a Reconstructionist community.”

“Reconstructionist communities tend to be small, and are democratic in their decision-making, inclusive in its membership, and if it has a rabbi, regards the rabbi not as an authority figure but as a member who is a special and unique Jewish resource,” said Steinger.

Jewish history through a Reconstructionist lens

On Saturday, Feb. 25,  Steinger will lead a Shabbat morning service and Torah discussion on parsha Terumah at 10 a.m. Immediately following the service and kiddush, he will present a “Lunch and Learn” program entitled “Jewish History through a Reconstructionist Lens.”

Steinger is the second-featured scholar in Shir Hadash’s four-part Shabbat community education series.

Both the service and Lunch and Learn will take place in the Jewish Community Center’s Arts and Education building, 2 Millstone Campus Dr. Reservations are required and can be made online or via e-mail to [email protected].

“Hopefully attendees, both members of Shir Hadash and those from the general Jewish community, will gain greater appreciation and understanding of Reconstructionist Judaism and, in this instance, its outlook on Jewish history,” said Steinger.

The community education series will continue the weekend of March 31-April 1 with Koach Baruch (KB) Frazier, an audiologist, musician and fourth-year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia. It will conclude on April 22 with guest scholar Shira Singelenberg, a third-year student at the RRC.

For more information on the education series or about Shir Hadash Reconstructionist Community, visit shirhadashstl.info or contact [email protected].