Heschel Abraham Joshua

Abraham Joshua Heschel - Personal data
Date of birth: 11th January 1907
Place of birth: Warszawa
Date of death: 23rd December 1972
Place of death:
Occupation: philosopher, theologian, Jewish poet.
Related towns: Vilnius

Heschel Abraham Joshua (11.01.1907 Warsaw – 23.12.1972 New York) – philosopher, theologian, Jewish poet.

Heschel was born as the sixth child of Moshe Mordechai Heschel and Reizel Perlow Heschel. He was a descendant of a Hasidic dynasty, whose ancestor was Avraham Yehoshua Heshel, a famous Apt Tzadik, popularly known as the Apter Rebbe. Young Abraham Joshoua had a traditional religious upbringing with rabbinical semicha. He wished to pursue a university degree, but had to finish second degree education in order to achieve that goal. For this purpose, he signed up to a gymnasium in Vilnius where he obtained a secondary school leaving certificate. During his stay in Vilnius, he joined a group of poets Jung Wilne. His first collection of poems was published in Warsaw in 1933. Afterwards, Heschel studied at a university in Berlin. There, he defended his doctoral thesis, issued in 1993 in Krakow – Das prophetische Bewußtsein. He also graduated studies at Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums where he was awarded a reform smicha.

In 1937, Martin Buber appointed him his successor in Jüdisches Lehrhaus in Frankfurt am Main. However, he was a lecturer there only until Autumn of 1939, when as a Polish Jew he was arrested by the Gestapo, and deported to Poland after many tribulations. He remained in Warsaw until the summer of 1939. At the time, he was a lecturer at the Institute for Jewish Studies. Shortly before the World War II, Heshel managed to depart to London, where he obtained an approval to depart to the United States of America after 6 months. At the beginning, he was employed at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. Since 1945, he had been the professor of ethics and Jewish mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.

Heschel was interested in the spirituality of Jewish medieval philosophy, Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy. He authored numerous books on philosophy and Jewish history. He was involved in Martin Luther King’s fight on equal rights for African Americans. He stood for respecting civil rights in the United States in America, as well as the USSR. He enjoyed wide recognition not only in Jewish circles, which is why in 1965 he was invited to participate in the 2nd Vatican Council.

Abraham Joshua Heschel died in New York in 1972. 


  • About Rabbi A.J. Heschel, [in:] Heschel.org.il [online] https://heschel.org.il/en/ [Accessed: 10.12.2021].


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