Susannah Heschel

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Susannah Heschel is an American author and professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College.


In 1972 Heschel asked the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York to consider her application to its rabbinical school, though she knew it did not ordain women at that time.[1]

Heschel served as assistant professor of Religion at Southern Methodist University from 1989–91, and seven years as Abba Hillel Silver professor of Jewish Studies at Case Western Reserve University from 1991-98. She was a Rockefeller Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 1997-98, and 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 conference examined "Ink and Blood: Textuality and the Humane," at which the Qur'an scholar Angelika Neuwirth delivered the opening keynote address. In 2011-12 she held a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, Germany. 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.[2]

Published work[edit]

Her monograph Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (University of Chicago Press) won the Abraham Geiger Prize of the Geiger College in Germany and a National Jewish Book Award.[3] She has also written The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton University Press),[4] 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.[2][3][5] 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,”[6]“Jewish and Muslim Feminist Theologies in Dialogue: Discourses of Difference,”[7] “Constructions of Jewish Identity through Reflections on Islam,”[8] and “German-Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool of De-Orientalization.”[9]

Seder plate custom[edit]

She started a custom whereby some Jews include an orange on the seder plate. The orange represents the fruitfulness for all Jews when all marginalized peoples are included, particularly women and gay people.[10] An incorrect but common rumor says that this tradition began when a man told her that a woman belongs on the bimah as an orange on the seder plate; however, it actually began when in the early 1980s, while when speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Heschel was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (as some would say there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate).[11] Heschel felt that to put bread on the seder plate would be to accept that Jewish lesbians and gay men violate Judaism like chametz violates Passover.[11] So, at her next seder, she chose an orange as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community.[11] In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out – a gesture of spitting out and repudiating the homophobia of traditional Judaism.[11] Today, there are seder plates made with seven spots, an extra for the orange on the seder plate, such as Michael Aram's Pomegranate Seder Plate.[12]


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.[13]

In 2006, Heschel served on the Green Zionist Alliance slate to the World Zionist Congress.[14][15]

Personal life[edit]

Heschel is the daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel.[2] She is married to James Louis Aronson, professor emeritus of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, and the mother of two daughters, Gittel Esther Devorah Heschel-Aronson and Avigael Natania Mira Heschel-Aronson.


  1. ^ "An Ordination First, and What Followed –". Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  2. ^ a b c "Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution (Jewish Women's Archive)". Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  3. ^ a b "Religion and the Quest to Contain Violence | Brandeis University". Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism: Susannah Heschel, Danya Ruttenberg: 9781580050579: Books". Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  6. ^ Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 35:1 3-27. 35 (1): 3–27. Spring–Summer 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Beth Wenger and Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, eds., (November 2014). Gender in Judaism and Islam: Common Lives, Uncommon Heritage,. Philadelphia: New York University Press. pp. 17–45. 
  8. ^ Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religions, and the Challenge of Objectivity, ed. Nina Caputo and Andrea Sterk, eds., (2014). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 169–184.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ New German Critique 117: 91–117. Fall 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Tamara Cohen. "An Orange on the Seder Plate". Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c d Jewish Rituals for On the Seder Table. Retrieved on 18 October 2011.
  12. ^ ModernTribe. "Michael Aram Pomegranate Seder Plate -- A Place For An Orange". Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  13. ^ "Susannah Heschel". 2012-01-10. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  14. ^ Kessler, E.J. (Nov 25, 2005). "Zionist Election Has High Stakes, Strange Pairings". The Forward. 
  15. ^ Mobius (Jan 14, 2006). "". JewSchool.  External link in |title= (help)