ABRA­HAM JOSHUA HESCHEL IN BRIEF

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

BORN: 1907, War­saw, into a Cha­sidic dy­nasty ED­U­CA­TION: Af­ter gain­ing rab­binic or­di­na­tion in his youth, he moved to Ber­lin in 1927, where he earned a sec­ond, lib­eral rab­binic or­di­na­tion and a doc­tor­ate on bib­li­cal phe­nomenol­ogy. ES­CAPE FROM EUROPE: De­ported by the Nazis to Poland in 1938, he was able to leave Europe with an in­vi­ta­tion to teach at the Re­form rab­binic sem­i­nary in Cincin­nati. He spent nine months in Eng­land, be­fore reach­ing the USA in 1940. CA­REER: In 1945 he went to New York, be­com­ing pro­fes­sor of Jewish ethics and mys­ti­cism at the (Con­ser­va­tive) Jewish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. WRIT­ING: In his youth he pub­lished Tal­mu­dic novel­lae, and also po­etry in the of­ten fiercely sec­u­lar Yid­dish jour­nals. In Ber­lin, he wrote bi­ogra­phies of the me­dieval greats; Mai­monides, Abar­banel and, later, Saa­dia Gaon. In Amer­ica, he pro­duced ma­jor the­o­log­i­cal works con­sid­er­ing con­tem­po­rary is­sues and Tal­mu­dic thought with equal in­sight and po­etry. Af­ter his death in 1972, three book-length works ap­peared on early Cha­sidic masters. THE COS­MOPOLI­TAN: Heschel’s writ­ten work pro­vides an in­sight into the dizzy­ing num­ber of worlds through which he trav­elled. Read­ing his English prose, you may be sur­prised to know that English was only his fifth lan­guage. He not only spoke Yid­dish, Pol­ish, Ger­man and He­brew, he had even pub­lished in each of th­ese lan­guages be­fore ar­riv­ing in Amer­ica.

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