Susannah Heschel

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Susannah Heschel
Born (1956-05-15) May 15, 1956 (age 67)
ParentAbraham Joshua Heschel (father)
Academic background
Alma materTrinity College, Harvard Divinity School, University of Pennsylvania
Academic work
InstitutionsDartmouth College

Susannah Heschel (born 15 May 1956) is an American scholar and professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College.[1] The author and editor of numerous books and articles, she is a Guggenheim Fellow[2] Heschel's scholarship focuses on Jewish and Christian interactions in Germany during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Susannah Heschel is the daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century, and Sylvia, a concert pianist.[1] In 1972, Heschel applied to the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, which did not ordain women at that time and turned her down.[3] In 1995, she married James Louis (Yaakov) Aronson, Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, with whom she has two children.[4]

Academic career[edit]

Heschel received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. She served as lecturer and then assistant professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University from 1988 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 Center for the Humanities at Tufts University. In 2013 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2005, Heschel received an academic fellowship from the Ford Foundation which she used to convene a series of international conferences at Dartmouth College, that brought together scholars in the fields of Jewish studies and Islamic studies. One of the 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 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.[1]

Views and opinions[edit]

Heschel started a custom in the early 1980s of including an orange on the Passover Seder plate. The orange represents fruitfulness for all Jews included marginalized Jews, such as women and gay people.[5] The tradition began when Heschel visited Hillel at Oberlin College and saw an early feminist haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread to the Seder plate as a sign of solidarity with lesbian Jews.[5][6] In her view putting bread on the Seder plate would mean that lesbian and gay Jews are as incompatible with Judaism as chametz is with Passover.[5] At her next Seder, she used an orange as a symbol of inclusion for those who are marginalized by the Jewish community.[5][6] Today, one can purchase Seder plates made with seven spots, as opposed to the traditional six, to include an orange.[7]

Social activism[edit]

In 2006, Heschel served on the Green Zionist Alliance slate to the World Zionist Congress.[8][9]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Heschel is an honorary trustee of the Heschel School in New York. She 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.[10]

Published work[edit]

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.[11][12] She has also written The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (2008, Princeton University Press)[13] 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.[1][11][14]

She has also co-edited, with Christopher Browning and Michael Marrus, Holocaust Scholarship: Personal Trajectories and Professional Interpretations. With Umar Ryad, she co-edited The Muslim Reception of European Orientalism. In 2018 she published Jüdischer Islam: Islam und jüdisch-deutsche Selbstbestimmung. 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",[15] "Jewish and Muslim Feminist Theologies in Dialogue: Discourses of Difference",[16] "Constructions of Jewish Identity through Reflections on Islam",[17] and "German Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool for De-Orientalizing Judaism".[18]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Feminist Revolution: Susannah Heschel". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  2. ^ "Susannah Heschel". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  3. ^ Eilberg, Amy (May 5, 2010). "An Ordination First, and What Followed". The Forward. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  4. ^ Pashman, Manya Brachear (2022-03-30). "Susannah Heschel: The Rabbi's Daughter". Moment Magazine. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  5. ^ a b c d Cohen, Tamara. "An Orange on the Seder Plate". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Eisehnbach-Budner, Deborah; Borns-Weil, Alex (22 August 2010). "The Background to the Background of the Orange on the Seder Plate and a Ritual of Inclusion". Ritualwell. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  7. ^ "Michael Aram Pomegranate Seder Plate — A Place for an Orange". Archived from the original on November 22, 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  8. ^ Kessler, E.J. (Nov 25, 2005). "Zionist Election Has High Stakes, Strange Pairings". The Forward.
  9. ^ Mobius (Jan 14, 2006). "". JewSchool. {{cite news}}: External link in |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Susannah Heschel". 2012-01-10. Retrieved 2013-08-02.
  11. ^ a b "Religion and the Quest to Contain Violence". Brandeis University. March 14, 2011. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  12. ^ "Past Winners". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
  13. ^ Greene, Daniel (November 22, 2007). "Voices on Antisemitism Podcast". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  14. ^ "Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism". Publishers Weekly. September 10, 2001. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  15. ^ Heschel, Susannah (Spring–Summer 2015). "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. doi:10.1353/sce.2015.0018. S2CID 141900451.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Heschel, Susannah (Fall 2012). "German Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool for De-Orientalizing Judaism". New German Critique. 39 (3): 91–107. doi:10.1215/0094033X-1677282.

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