Susannah Heschel is an American scholar, public intellectual, and professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. The author and editor of numerous books and articles, she is a Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including four honorary doctorates. Her scholarship focuses on Jewish and Christian interactions in Germany during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Two of her major works of scholarship include Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (1998, University of Chicago Press) and The Aryan Jesus: Christians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (2008, Princeton University Press). She has also edited, translated, and published numerous works by her father, Abraham Joshua Heschel, including Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity (1996, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Essential Writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel (2011, Orbis Press).
Heschel served as assistant professor of Religion at Southern Methodist University from 1989 to 1991, and as Abba Hillel Silver associate professor of Jewish Studies at Case Western Reserve University from 1991 to 1998. She was a Rockefeller Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 1997-98, received a Carnegie Foundation Fellowship in Islamic Studies in 2008, and spent two years at the Tufts University Humanities Center. In 2005, she received an academic fellowship from the Ford Foundation, which she used to convene a series of international conferences, held at Dartmouth College, that brought together scholars in the fields of Jewish Studies and Islamic Studies to discuss a range of issues. One of those conferences honored the Arab philosopher Sadik al-Azm; another examined "Ink and Blood: Textuality and the Humane", at which Quranic scholar Angelika Neuwirth delivered the opening keynote address. In 2011-12 she held a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013. Frequently in Germany to lecture, she serves on the Beirat of the Zentrum Jüdische Studien in Berlin. In 1992-93 she was the Martin Buber visiting professor of Jewish religious philosophy at the University of Frankfurt; she has also taught at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Cape Town, and Princeton University. She is currently the Eli Black professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College.
Her monograph Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (1998, University of Chicago Press) won the Abraham Geiger Prize of the Geiger College in Germany and a National Jewish Book Award. She has also written The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (2008, Princeton University Press) and the foreword to Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism, and has edited Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust (with Robert P. Ericksen), Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism (with David Biale and Michael Galchinsky), and On Being a Jewish Feminist. She has also co-edited, with Christopher Browning and Michael Marrus, Holocaust Scholarship: Personal Trajectories and Professional Interpretations, a volume of articles stemming from a conference held at the University of Cape Town in 2012. Among her recent articles are "The Slippery Yet Tenacious Nature of Racism: New Developments in Critical Race Theory and Their Implications for the Study of Religion and Ethics", "Jewish and Muslim Feminist Theologies in Dialogue: Discourses of Difference", "Constructions of Jewish Identity through Reflections on Islam", and "German Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool for De-Orientalizing Judaism".
Seder plate custom
Heschel started a custom in the early 1980s, in which some Jews include an orange on the Passover Seder plate. The orange represents the fruitfulness for all Jews when marginalized Jews, particularly women and gay people, are allowed to become active and contribute to the Jewish community. A common, though incorrect, rumor says that the tradition began when a man told Heschel that a woman has as much business on the bimah in a synagogue as an orange does on the Seder plate. In fact, the tradition began when Heschel spoke at Hillel at Oberlin College, where she saw an early feminist haggadah that recommended adding a crust of bread to the Seder plate as a sign of solidarity with lesbian Jews. She felt putting bread on the Seder plate would mean accepting the idea that lesbian and gay Jews are as incompatible with Judaism as chametz is with Passover. At her next Seder, she used an orange as a symbol of inclusion for lesbians, gays, and others who are marginalized by the Jewish community. Today, one can purchase Seder plates made with seven spots—as opposed to the traditional six—to include an orange on the Seder plate.
Heschel has received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Colorado College, an honorary doctorate of sacred letters from the University of St. Michael's College, an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Trinity College, an honorary doctorate from the Augustana Theologische Hochschule, the John M. Manley Huntington award from Dartmouth, and the Jacobus Family Fellowship from Dartmouth, and she was elected an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa.
In 2006, Heschel served on the Green Zionist Alliance slate to the World Zionist Congress. In 2015, she delivered a series of five lectures on Zionism for the internet site of Hadassah, the international women's Zionist organization.
- "Susannah Heschel". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- Eilberg, Amy (May 5, 2010). "An Ordination First, and What Followed". The Forward. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- "The Feminist Revolution: Susannah Heschel". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- "Religion and the Quest to Contain Violence". Brandeis University. March 14, 2011. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- Greene, Daniel (November 22, 2007). "Voices on Antisemitism Podcast". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- "Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism". Publishers Weekly. September 10, 2001. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- "The Slippery Yet Tenacious Nature of Racism: New Developments in Critical Race Theory and Their Implications for the Study of Religion and Ethics". Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics. 35 (1): 3–27. Spring–Summer 2015. doi:10.1353/sce.2015.0018.
- Kashani-Sabet, Firoozeh; Wenger, Beth S., eds. (2014). Gender in Judaism and Islam: Common Lives, Uncommon Heritage. New York: New York University Press. pp. 17–45. ISBN 978-1-4798-5326-7.
- Sterk, Andrea; Caputo, Nina, eds. (2014). Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religions, and the Challenge of Objectivity. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. pp. 169–184. ISBN 978-0-8014-5182-9.
- "German Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool for De-Orientalizing Judaism". New German Critique. 39 (3): 91–107. Fall 2012. doi:10.1215/0094033X-1677282.
- Cohen, Tamara. "An Orange on the Seder Plate". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- Eisehnbach-Budner, Deborah; Borns-Weil, Alex. "The Background to the Background of the Orange on the Seder Plate and a Ritual of Inclusion". Ritualwell. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- "Michael Aram Pomegranate Seder Plate — A Place for an Orange". ModernTribe.com. Archived from the original on November 22, 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- "Susannah Heschel". Dartmouth College. June 14, 2016. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- Kessler, E.J. (November 25, 2005). "Zionist Election Has High Stakes, Strange Pairings". The Forward. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- Sieradski, Daniel (January 14, 2006). "Elect Your Reps for the 35th World Zionist Congress". JewSchool. Retrieved June 15, 2016.