ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL IN BRIEF
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.