After a gracious introduction by Rabbi Gary Zola, Dr. Susannah Heschel took the stage at the 130th Convention of the Conference of American Rabbis. She started by telling us how she once wanted to be a rabbi not a professor, but we are so lucky that she choose the path that she did. Even though her father told her not to be an academic. For she is a brilliant teacher or scholar as was her father.
Dr. Heschel spoke about her father’s legacy and the importance of tzedek v’shalom, justice and peace. She spoke powerfully about the walls we build, not only physically but within our hearts. Throughout her talk, Dr. Heschel connected her father’s words to our current lives. His legacy continues through each of us, who have been touched by his life and writings.
Rabbi Heschel lived his life during a period of turmoil in our country. His words are our inspiration as we figure out whether we never again for the Jews is the same as never again for everyone in our world. Her challenge to us, Reform Jewish leaders, was to figure out what is important to us and to work on that issue. For there is too much in our world that is wrong that without direction we will be frozen.
Rabbi Heschel’s legacy is a reminder that we have the power to make a difference in our world, that we cannot stay silent even in light of the divisions within our communities.
Dr. Heschel is a credit to her father’s legacy, but we must remember that she is an important scholar in her own right. She spoke eloquently about the fact that Zionism has always come in multiple strands, and we have a responsibility to dialogue with one another and with those outside of our community. These were powerful words in a room of diverse opinions.
A great thank you to the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives for sponsoring Dr. Heschel’s talk.
Rabbi Simone Schicker serves Temple B’nai Israel in Kalamazoo, Michigan.