Two Jewish Fathers Who Changed History: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Elie Wiesel

headshots of Heschel and Wiesel

Susannah Heschel
Dartmouth College

Elisha Wiesel
Elie Wiesel Foundation

Date: Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Time: 4 - 5:30pm    
Location: Gasson Hall 100

Co-sponsored with the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning

RSVP Requested

Photo credit: Whitestone Photo

Abstract

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel were good friends whose work influenced people around the world to seek peace and justice. Their children, Susannah Heschel and Elisha Wiesel, will speak about the legacies of their fathers.

Speakers Bios

Headshot Susannah Heschel

Susannah Heschel is the Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor and chair of the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College. Her scholarship focuses on the history of Jewish and Protestant religious thought in Germany during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and she has brought post-colonial theory and feminist theory to her analyses. She is the author of Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus and The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany as well as edited volumes, including Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism and Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust. She is the author of over one hundred articles, and she has also edited two volumes of her father’s writings, including Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel. She has just written a book, together with Sarah Imhoff, Jewish Studies and the Woman Question.

She has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Cape Town, Frankfurt, Edinburgh, and Princeton, and has held research grants from the Ford Foundation, a fellowship in Islamic Studies from the Carnegie Foundation, a year-long Rockefeller fellowship at the National Humanities Center, and a year-long fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. In 2013, she became a Guggenheim Fellow. Her current research focuses on the history of European Jewish scholarship on Islam, and she just published her first book on that topic, in German, Jüdischer Islam: Islam und jüdisch-deutsche Selbstbestimmung. She has also published a co-edited volume with Umar Ryad, The Muslim Reception of European Orientalism.

Elisha Wiesel headshot

Elisha Wiesel is a recovering Wall Street executive. Since retiring from a twenty-five year financial markets career at Goldman Sachs at the end of 2019, he served in 2020 as one of the lead technologists in Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. In his most recent board position at Good Shepherd Services, Wiesel raised millions of dollars for New York’s neediest by convening “Midnight Madness”, where hundreds of finance professionals stayed up all night solving elaborate puzzles on the city streets.
 
When his father passed, Wiesel realized how many others missed his voice––and so, when opportunities for impact arise, he shares his father’s message and continues his legacy by standing up for persecuted communities. In the last few years, Wiesel has spoken at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about the need to protect the LGBTQ community; shone a light while speaking at Auschwitz on the plight of Syrian refugees being denied Western asylum; written for the Financial Times about the urgency of upholding DACA; and taken his son to peacefully march for Black Lives.
 
Wiesel is currently advising several start-ups in the FinTech space, chairing the Elie Wiesel Foundation, learning a little Talmud every day, and generally trying to be a good father, husband and son.

Read More

Abraham Joshua and Susannah Heschel:

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings. Susannah Heschel, editor. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011.

__________. Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays. Susannah Heschel, editor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996.

__________. The Prophets. New York: Perennial Classics, 1962.

Heschel, Susannah. Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

__________. The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

__________. On Being a Jewish Feminist: A Reader. New York: Schocken Books, 1983.

Heschel, Susannah, David Biale, and Michael Galchinsky. Insider/Outsider : American Jews and Multiculturalism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998.

Zelizer, Julian E. Abraham Joshua Heschel: A Life of Radical Amazement. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2021.

Elie and Elisha Wiesel:

Berger, Joseph. Elie Wiesel: Confronting the Silence. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2023

Merkle, John C. “Abraham Joshua Heschel: Witness to God in Word and Deed.” Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations 2, no. 2 (2007): 3–12.

Wiesel, Elie. An Ethical Compass: Coming of Age in the 21st Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.

__________. The Gates of the Forest: A Novel. New York: Schocken Books, 1966.

__________. A Jew Today, 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1978.

__________. The Night Trilogy: Night • Dawn • Day, Rev. ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008.

__________. Open Heart, 1st American ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

“Elisha Wiesel Remembers His Father.” Moment. Interview. September-October 2016. https://momentmag.com/elisha-wiesel-remembers-father/

__________. “My father Elie Wiesel would have been ashamed of Beijing Olympics. The Jerusalem Post. February 9, 2022. https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-695822.

__________. “I helped organize the Washington rally against antisemitism. It wasn’t perfect, but it was necessary. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. July 19, 2021. https://www.jta.org/2021/07/19/opinion/i-helped-organize-the-washington-rally-against-antisemitism-it-wasnt-perfect-but-it-was-necessary. 

In the News

In his opinion piece in the Washington Post, Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha, explains the wrestling that took place when the Washington National Cathedral asked to erect a bust of his father in the cathedral. He explains that his father would have struggled with it as well. At the heart of this struggle is the Christian history of anti-semitism and anti-Zionism that continues even today and is exploited by both the Left and Right. After agreeing to the honor, Wiesel says he hopes that his father’s image challenges all to root out anti-semitism from the movements to which they belong.

Mark Massa, Susannah Heschel, and Elisha Wiesel
photo of Susannah Heschel
photo of Elisha Wiesel

Photo Credits: Christopher Soldt, MTS