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Short biography
Abraham Joshua Heschel was the youngest of six children born to an esteemed Hasidic Jewish family; they were descended from many prominent rabbis. After a traditional yeshiva education and studying for Orthodox rabbinical ordination, he pursued a doctorate at the University of Berlin and a liberal rabbinic ordination at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, where he later taught. He joined a Yiddish poetry group and in 1933, published a volume of Yiddish poems. In 1938, he was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Poland. He spent 10 months lecturing at Warsaw's Institute for Jewish Studies. Six weeks before the German invasion of Poland, Dr. Heschel was able to leave Warsaw for London. Most of his remaining family was murdered by the Nazis. In 1940, Dr. Heschel emigrated to the USA and obtained a faculty position at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. In 1946, he married Sylvia Straus, a concert pianist, and also took up a post at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City, the main seminary of Conservative Judaism. Here he served as professor of Jewish ethics and mysticism for the rest of his life. It was his leadership in the civil rights movement that first made Dr. Heschel widely known. In a famous photo of the leaders of the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, Dr. Heschel was the white man with the white beard to the right of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Heschel published 18 books and more than 100 essays over his lifetime.
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