New in the acclaimed Jewish Lives series: A biography of the rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who became a symbol of the marriage between religion and social justice
“Zelizer’s book is absolutely riveting, both as a study of a truly important figure within Jewish thought and in providing insight into the politics of the 1960s.”—Sandy Levinson, Balkinization
“When I marched in Selma, I felt my legs were praying.” So said Polish-born American rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972) of his involvement in the 1965 Selma civil rights march alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Heschel, who spoke with a fiery moralistic fervor, dedicated his career to the struggle to improve the human condition through faith. In this new biography, author Julian Zelizer tracks Heschel’s early years and foundational influences—his childhood in Warsaw and early education in Hasidism, his studies in late 1920s and early 1930s Berlin, and the fortuitous opportunity, which brought him to the United States and saved him from the Holocaust, to teach at Hebrew Union College and the Jewish Theological Seminary. This deep and complex portrait places Heschel at the crucial intersection between religion and progressive politics in mid-twentieth-century America. To this day Heschel remains a symbol of the fight to make progressive Jewish values relevant in the secular world.
Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of numerous books, and has written for CNN.com, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
“This highly appreciative biography of Heschel benefits from hindsight throughout. . . . Zelizer’s constantly looking for early signs of his protagonist’s radical social activism, for his Heschel is not only the author of the highly influential Prophets, he is also driven—like the subjects of that work—‘to communicate God’s anguish to the world.’”—Sara Jo Ben Zvi, Segula
“Julian E. Zelizer does a fine job in evoking the different social and cultural milieux in which Heschel moved, from the often grinding poverty but religious richness of Jewish life in Warsaw to the comforts of America, where the primary threat to the Jewish community was spiritual desiccation.”—Simon Rocker, Jewish Chronicle
“Zelizer covers the life and career of Heschel thoroughly and elegantly. This book will find an enthusiastic and appreciative public.”—Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple
“Julian Zelizer’s Abraham Joshua Heschel transcends time and place. The life of Heschel moves seamlessly from inside the Jewish world to exhilarating movements of the 1960s and the quest for peace and justice. Zelizer shows how Heschel’s words, thoughts, and actions resonate to this day.”—Hasia Diner, author of Julius Rosenwald: Repairing the World
“Julian Zelizer’s exciting new biography brings Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to life. Zelizer brings his own unique lens as a political historian and sheds new light on a life well and inspirationally led.”—Rabbi Shai Held, author of Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence
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