Abraham Joshua Heschel

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Abraham Joshua Heschel (January 11, 1907 – December 23, 1972) was a Warsaw-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century.



Abraham Joshua Heschel was descended from preeminent European rabbis on both sides of the family.[1] His great-great-grandfather and namesake was Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt. His father, Moshe Mordechai Heschel, died of influenza in 1916. His mother Reizel Perlow was also a descendant of Avraham Yehoshua Heshel and other dynasties. He was the youngest of six children. His siblings were Sarah, Dvora Miriam, Esther Sima, Gittel, and Jacob.

After a traditional yeshiva education and studying for Orthodox rabbinical ordination semicha, he pursued his doctorate at the University of Berlin and a liberal rabbinic ordination at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. There he studied under some of the finest Jewish educators of the time: Chanoch Albeck, Ismar Elbogen, Julius Guttmann, and Leo Baeck. Heschel later taught Talmud there. He joined a Yiddish poetry group, Jung Vilna, and in 1933, published a volume of Yiddish poems, Der Shem Hamefoyrosh: Mentsch, dedicated to his father.[2]

In late October 1938, when he was living in a rented room in the home of a Jewish family in Frankfurt, he was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Poland. He spent ten months lecturing on Jewish philosophy and Torah at Warsaw's Institute for Jewish Studies.[2] Six weeks before the German invasion of Poland, Heschel left Warsaw for London with the help of Julian Morgenstern, president of Hebrew Union College, who had been working to obtain visas for Jewish scholars in Europe.[2]

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