Heschel and Kaplan: Cross Sections and Intersections

By :  The Jewish Theological Seminary Posted On Apr 18, 2013 / 5773 | Contemporary Jewish Philosophy | Conservative Judaism

Rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mordecai M. Kaplan were among the greatest Jewish minds of the 20th century. Remarkably, both “lived” and taught for many years at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), knew each other well, and at times shared ideas. Dr. Susannah Heschel, as the devoted student of her father’s life and thought, and Dr. Mel Scult, as biographer of Kaplan and scholar of his voluminous diaries, are well positioned to discuss the private lives of Kaplan and Heschel, the relationship between them over many years of teaching at JTS, and their contributions as Jewish public intellectuals. “Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mordecai M. Kaplan: Cross Sections and Intersections”  explores the ideologies of these two eminent thinkers-how they converged, overlapped, and clashed-sharpening our appreciation of their groundbreaking lives and views.

“Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mordecai M. Kaplan: Cross Sections and Intersections” took place on the JTS campus on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 as a Henry N. and Selma S. Rapaport Memorial Lecture.

Dr. Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, serves on the faculty of the Jewish Studies Program, the department of Religion, and the Women and Gender Studies Program. Her research and teaching focus on Jewish-Christian relations in Germany during the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of biblical scholarship, and the history of anti-Semitism. Her numerous publications include Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus, which won a National Jewish Book Award. She has also edited and coedited several books, including Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays of Abraham Joshua Heschel. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut), a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School, and her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Mel Scult, professor emeritus of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, has also served as adjunct professor of Philosophy at JTS. The biographer of Mordecai Kaplan, he has published several volumes, including Dynamic Judaism: The Essential Writings of Mordecai Kaplan and Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century: A Biography of Mordecai M. Kaplan. He earned his bachelor’s degree from JTS, a master’s degree from Harvard University, and his doctorate in Judaic Studies from Brandeis University.

JTS’s annual Henry N. and Selma S. Rapaport Memorial Lecture was originally established in 1982 by Selma S. Rapaport (1916-2010), who served as president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and as a longtime JTS board member, in memory of her late husband. A distinguished attorney and committed Jew, Mr. Rapaport (1905-1980) served as president of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York, and as president of the United Synagogue. He was an active member of the JTS board, and a generous benefactor of JTS’s scholarly programs.