Abraham Joshua Heschel: A Life of Radical Amazement

By :  Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary Posted On Nov 10, 2021 | Author Conversations: Between the Lines


Author and historian Julian E. Zelizer talks about his book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: A Life of Radical Amazement, which chronicles the life of Heschel as a symbol of the fight to make progressive Jewish values relevant in the secular world.

Heschel, who spoke with fiery moralistic fervor, dedicated his career to the struggle to improve the human condition through faith. In this new biography, Zelizer tracks Heschel’s early years and foundational influences—his childhood in Warsaw, early education in Hasidism, and his studies in the late 1920s and early 1930s Berlin. It also tracks the fortuitous opportunities Heschel had to go to the United States to be saved from the Holocaust and teach at Hebrew Union College and JTS.

This deep and complex portrait places Heschel at the crucial intersection between religion and progressive politics in mid-twentieth-century America.

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles says: “Zelizer covers the life and career of Heschel thoroughly and elegantly. This book will find an enthusiastic and appreciative public.”

This event was sponsored by The JTS Library. Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, JTS, served as moderator.


Julian E. Zelizer has been among the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a CNN Political Analyst and a regular guest on NPR’s “Here and Now.” He is the author and editor of 22 books including The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society (2015), the winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the Best Book on Congress, and Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 (Norton), co-authored with Kevin Kruse.