Susannah Heschel
Professor Susannah Heschel. Courtesy of Lauren Herrin.

The Zoom event aims to explore the connectedness of racism and antisemitism.  

On Thursday, September 3 at 7 p.m., Professor Susannah Heschel will speak at a community Zoom event which will explore whether the rise in antisemitism is its own phenomenon or if it stems from racism. 

The event, “Racism and the Jews: History, Conscience and the Future,” is put forward by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity and Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC. 

Heschel is the Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College. She teaches courses on modern Judaism, modern Jewish thought and modern Jewish history. Heschel is also the author of numerous books and articles. 

As the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Heschel grew up surrounded by the Civil Rights Movement. Her father is known for his active role in the civil rights and peace movements of the 1960s, so from an early age, civil rights were an important aspect of her life. 

“I discovered that the Hebrew Bible could change America. I saw that it could soften hardened hearts,” Heschel said. “I was very inspired by my father and by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and they gave me a great love of the bible.” 

During the event, Heschel will discuss whether rising antisemitism is a species of racism or “hate,” or a separate phenomenon. Heschel will also focus on if Jews can fight antisemitism while ignoring racism toward African Americans, what the impact of antisemitism and racism is on Black Jews and what discussion of racism Jews should be having. 

“What is important to me is that I understand my neighbors. I am commanded to love my neighbor, but how can I love my neighbor if I don’t know them?” Heschel said. “That to me means that as a Jew and as a human being, I am obligated to understand people that are all around me, which include African Americans. I want to understand their concerns, their history and to understand the troubles that they have had.” 

The event will also feature a clip from the recently-released Shared Legacies, which features lessons of Black-Jewish cooperation and a discussion with a new generation of Black leaders.  

“I am well aware that we live in a terribly polarized environment, in America, in the world and also in the Jewish community. There is a lot of anger and resentment and even hatred,” Heschel said. “We need to understand the reasons for the anger, but we also need to be inspired so that we don’t get trapped in the anger. I believe that Judaism has something to contribute to lift ourselves out of that conflict. In my opinion, the teachings of compassion need to be combined with the teachings of justice that we find in the Hebrew prophets.” 

To register for the event, please head to the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit’s website. 

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