Page 77 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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SHERWIN / ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL
69
to have three legs, when two legs are missing.” At an annual con­
vention of the American Medical Association, he indicated, “The
patient is haunted with fear, but some doctors are in a hurry,
and above all, impatient. They have something in common with
God; they cannot be easily reached, not even at the golf course.”
HIS WORDS AND DEEDS
Not complaisant with books and with words, Abraham Heschel
responded to the needs of the times also with deeds. In 1942,
when Heschel, newly arrived from a doomed Jewish world, ap­
proached leaders of American Jewry to intercede, they responded
with hostility or apathy. Twenty years later, when he sought to
awaken organized Jewry to the plight of the Russian Jews, he was
greeted with equal impassivity. By the time the leaders in the 40’s
responded, it was too late. But in the 60’s, the Jewish community
eventually mobilized in response to his original call.
When President Eisenhower convened the White House Con­
ference on Children and Youth in 1960, it was Heschel's paper
which he found so impressive as to invite him to return the
following year to present a statement at the White House Con­
ference on Aging. These and others of Heschel’s views on social
issues form a volume entitled
The Insecurity of Freedom.
In 1965, despite condemnation and opposition from many
quarters, Heschel insightfully and courageously denounced the
war in Vietnam as a “moral outrage.”
When Pope John decided that the Catholic Church should re­
think its centuries-old view of Judaism and the Jew, it was
Abraham Heschel whom the Pontiff wanted to see. His audiences
with Pope John and later with Pope Paul ultimately resulted in
the Ecumenical Council’s
Schema On the Jews,
in which the
Church conceded that for two thousand years its doctrine con­
cerning the Jews had been a mistake.
Abraham Heschel was a man of his time ahead of his time; at
home in the past, he has bequeathed us a charted path into the
future. He singularly demonstrated that Jewish destiny can be
compatible with Jewish history, that the Jewish mind can co­
exist with the Jewish heart, that meaning can subdue absurdity,
that life can be a celebration.