How I Met Mordecai Kaplan

How I Met Mordecai Kaplan

It was 1976-77 my first trip to Israel also first year at Hebrew Union College. I showed up with a suitcase and a guitar and sat on the steps at 13 King David Street in Jerusalem and unpacked my instrument, attracted the attention of an excellent Israeli player-entrepreneur who soon had me on the road in a Rhythm and Blues then a Country and Bluegrass then a Jazz and Blues Review that covered the country. I tried to conceal this part of my life. I was often gone and missed a lot of the tiyulim [trips around the country organized by my school].

My friend and co-player lived on ibn Ezra street I think the corner of Keren Kayemet if I am remembering correctly. He had a nice mirpeset [balcony] and almost every day during the week I would stay late in the library then make my way down Keren Kayemet street where a lone Temeni [Yemenite] restauranteur who stayed open late fed me a spectacular cuisine like he was my mother then on to Moshe’s mirpeset for some late night every night guitar playing.

We did that the entire year. I would sometimes see an elderly man dressed dark shuffling with a cane down the same Keren Kayemet street when I came earlier in the day who paused in front of a mercolet [small notions store] and barked Adon! [sir] and the proprietor would bring out the newspapers.

On Shavuot someone asked if I would like to attend a tikkun [late night teaching] at Mordecai Kaplan’s apartment, a rare occasion I was told during those years. I went with my sweetheart who later became my wife. Mordecai Kaplan was taken with her and gave her a sweet little book.

The tikkun was great. His wife was welcoming and I don’t remember much about what we learned because I realized that he was the man I saw shuffling on the street and moreover it was directly next door to where Moshe and I played guitar every night. Oh no, I thought, I’m keeping this man up at night. I think he was 95 at the time.

I wasn’t going to say anything but after he spoke he retreated into another room and his wife (I assumed it was his wife) was pleasant and social and enjoyed a little conversation before we left. It came up in conversation that my guitar playing friend lived in the building right next door. I grimaced.

You’re the guy who plays guitar on the mirpeset at night?

Yeah, that’s me, I started to apologize.

He loves listening to you. He waits for you every night. When you’re not there, he asks where’s my guitar player?

That’s how I met Mordecai Kaplan. I was his guitar player.

james stone goodman
united states of america