Avraham Yehoshua Heschel (1907-1972) was born in Poland to a long line of Hasidic rabbis from both his father’s and mother’s side. He was named after his ancestor, the Apter (or Apatower) Rebbe. After receiving semicha (rabbinic ordination) himself, Rabbi Heschel decided to pursue secular studies at the University of Berlin. (There he briefly crossed paths with three other future great rabbis: Yitzchak Hutner, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.) While earning his Ph.D in philosophy, Heschel also studied at Berlin’s Reform seminary and received a liberal rabbinic ordination to go along with his Orthodox one. Meanwhile, he was part of a Yiddish poetry club and published his own book of Yiddish poems in 1933. Heschel was arrested by the Gestapo in 1938 and deported back to Poland. He moved to London just six weeks before Poland was invaded by the Nazis. (His mother and three sisters perished in the Holocaust.) Heschel eventually settled in New York. He first worked at the (Reform) Hebrew Union College for five years before switching over to the (Conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary. There he spent the rest of his career as a rabbi and professor of Jewish ethics and Jewish mysticism. Despite working at these institutions, Heschel never identified himself with any particular Jewish denomination, and was himself strictly Torah-observant. His discourses often weaved together Biblical, Kabbalistic, and Hasidic teachings. He especially focused on the ancient Hebrew prophets, and sought to revive their message in healing today’s world. Because of this, he was an active civil rights and peace activist. Heschel famously marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma. Later that year, he presented King with the ‘Judaism and World Peace Award’. The two formed a very close friendship. Heschel also wrote numerous books, including five bestsellers. These books have been credited both with bringing countless Jews back to traditional observance, as well as opening up the study of Judaism to the wider world. Heschel worked hard to build bridges between Jews and gentiles. He represented the Jewish world at the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965, successfully getting the Catholics to formally abandon the belief that Jews were responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion—and therefore that all Jews are “accursed”—and to remove all prayers derogatory to Jews. Heschel is considered one of the most influential Jews of the 20th century, and remains among the most widely read and studied Jewish philosophers and theologians. Today, the 18th of Tevet, is his yahrzeit.
Words of the Week
Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profane riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet’s words. – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (second from right) with Martin Luther King Jr. marching on Selma in 1965.
The Hasidic Woman That Runs America’s Cybersecurity
Chani Anne Neuberger (b. 1976) was born in Brooklyn to a Hasidic Jewish family with roots in Hungary. She grew up speaking Yiddish and went to school at Bais Yaakov of Boro Park. She studied at Touro College, then earned an MBA from Columbia University. A professor suggested that she apply for the prestigious White House Fellowship, and she did a couple of years later. She was selected and – to her surprise – instead of going to the Treasury Department she was posted to the Department of Defense. From there, she got a job working for the Secretary of the Navy, and eventually became the US Navy’s deputy chief management officer. In 2009, Neuberger was posted to the new Cyber Command team of the NSA (National Security Agency). Her work was impressive, and after the Snowden leaks of 2013, she was appointed the NSA’s first chief risk officer. Neuberger also served as assistant deputy director of operations, and most recently oversaw security during the 2018 US Midterm elections. Earlier this week, Neuberger was named the NSA’s new head of the Cybersecurity Directorate. She sits on the NSA’s board of directors, and is one of its highest-ranking women. Neuberger finds inspiration for her work in her own family history: Seven of her eight great-grandparents were killed in the Holocaust, her grandparents were survivors, and in 1976 her parents were hostages on the Air France plane that was hijacked by terrorists and diverted to Entebbe. Outside of government, Neuberger runs a charity called Sister to Sister which helps single mothers in Orthodox Jewish communities across the US and Canada. The organization has over 1000 members and volunteers. Neuberger remains devoutly religious, and has said that sometimes her coworkers remind her that sunset is approaching so that she can make it home for Shabbat. Her advice to religious Jews: “learn to navigate the secular world as a frum [religious] Jew without apologizing, without abandoning your principles, but also with a sense of how and when to be flexible.”
I didn’t really have any role models of working women. I heard a lot of “a frum woman can’t do this; a frum woman doesn’t do that.” But I strongly feel that a woman should use the talents Hashem gave her, and that being frum is not a barrier to professional success. – Anne Neuberger