Tag Archives: processing

Heschel Highlights, Part 4

Welcome to the fourth post in a series documenting the processing of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

In 1939, Julian Morgenstern helped Abraham Joshua Heschel travel from Warsaw to London just six weeks before Germany invaded Poland. In 1940, upon his arrival in the United States, Heschel began teaching at Hebrew Union College (HUC) where Julian Morgenstern was President. HUC was the main seminary for Reform Judaism in the United States and Heschel was the Associate Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Rabbinics there for five years. Heschel resigned from the HUC faculty on May 18, 1945 over ideological differences. As we process the Abraham Joshua Heschel papers, we learn more about the complex relationship between Heschel, HUC, and the leaders of Reform Judaism. Through letters, essays, handwritten notes, and his books, Heschel expressed concerns about the role of God, spirituality and adherence to Jewish law among Reform Jews. At a few points in Heschel’s life, these concerns bubbled up and he took action as part of his larger effort to infuse American Judaism with spirituality.

Photographs and documents from the Heschel Papers.
Photographs and documents from the Heschel Papers.

In 1945, Heschel’s theological divergence from HUC became a serious issue for him and he resigned his position. In a handwritten draft of his resignation letter to Morgenstern Heschel wrote “from the beginning of my affiliation with the college I fully realized that the HUC stands for a distinctive philosophy of Judaism which it tries to realize in practice and with which my own interpretation of Judaism is not in full accord.” Heschel’s resignation was accepted with sadness and respect on the part of Julian Morgenstern. In a letter dated May 19, 1945, Morgenstern wrote that he and the HUC Board of Governors wished to express their feeling that he was doing the “right and honorable thing.” A number of letters related to Heschel’s resignation echo this sentiment. Heschel’s students, colleagues and friends approved of Heschel’s decision and wished him well. Despite his issues with the philosophy of HUC, Heschel expressed an interest in sustaining his friendship with Morgenstern in his resignation letter: “I earnestly hope and wish, however, that the cordiality and warmth of our friendship will not be impaired by my leaving this institution.” It is clear from the amount of correspondence from Morgenstern that their friendship continued until Heschel’s death. From the correspondence surrounding Heschel’s resignation from HUC (and subsequent acceptance of a position as Associate Professor of Jewish Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary) it seems that Heschel continued to be on good terms with many of the acquaintances and friends that he made during his time at HUC. However, his ideological differences remained.

In 1953, Heschel caused a stir among his Reform colleagues when he gave an address to the Reform Rabbinic Organization, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), entitled “Towards an Understanding of Halacha.” Heschel appears to have denounced the CCAR for failing to hold to the doctrine of Halacha (Jewish law) in this address. From the correspondence we have surrounding the address and its subsequent publication by the CCAR, it is clear that Heschel earned himself both admirers and detractors as a result. However, even the harshest letters reveal a great deal of respect for Heschel. A 1954 letter that begins with the exclamation “I am profoundly shocked by your persistent misinterpretation of Reform’s position on practice” concludes with the author, a reform rabbi, noting that Heschel could be helpful to the Reform movement as they move forward. Another letter from a Reform rabbi seems wary of Heschel’s denunciation of the CCAR but the author also wrote that “all your papers have a few extra calories of spiritual warmth which lift the heart.” And yet another rabbi’s letter reveals the power of a meeting with Heschel to assuage anger: “But of my prior disturbance, I can say ‘gam zu l’tovah’ [this is also for good] for it provided the occasion for a most stimulating and edifying chat with you.” Heschel remained in constant communication with Reform Rabbis and the leaders of the Reform movement throughout his life and his correspondence reveals that this exchange was beneficial to Heschel, to many Reform rabbis and perhaps even to Reform Judaism.

Post contributed by Adrienne Krone, Heschel Project Assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services.

 

Processing Intern Emanuel works with the Heschel Papers.

Heschel Highlights, Part 3

(Un)obsequiously Yours: An Out-of-the-Blue Letter from the Spiritual Master Alfred R. Pulyan

Welcome to the third post in a series documenting the processing of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

One of the most intriguing features of the Abraham Joshua Heschel collection is its ability not only to shed light, by virtue of the abundance and diversity of the materials it contains, on his intellectual biography, private persona, and scholarly and political work, but also to comment widely on a variety of issues related to the contemporary public and private sphere in the United States. Among such issues are certainly the socialization of the function of secular and religious thinkers and the material importance of correspondence in the establishment and furthering of social networks and intellectual affinities.

More particularly, in the case of as prominent and publicly exposed a figure as Heschel, it is interesting to notice the recurrence with which individuals of different persuasions, professions and social standing, struck by the reading of his works, spontaneously set out to address him letters. They often did so in order to offer their perspective on an issue they deemed dear to him, expose their views about various religious problems, or simply secure an opportunity to meet him in person. The particular sub-genre emerging from these “first letters,” in which an awkwardly deferential act of addressing turns into a self-conscious emergence from anonymity, may yield some insights into the relationship that links writing, and particularly epistolary writing, to the processes of subjectivation.

One exceptional, aberrant instance of such messages-out-of-the-blue genre can be cited. It is a neatly-penned and beautifully-styled letter, spanning five columns and three sheets of paper, addressed to Heschel by Alfred R. Pulyan, one of those figures whose relative notoriety derives in part by the respectable legitimacy with which the adjective “obscure” can be attached to their names. Writing to Heschel in 1964, ostensibly about Cardinal Augustin Bea’s draft of the declaration Nostra aetate (but really about Judaism, Christianity, the awakening, and the sense of existence), Pulyan, a spiritual teacher based in South Kent, Connecticut, by the end of his letter makes no mystery of his intentions: to turn the Polish-born rabbi into one of his pupils.

Processing Intern Emanuel works with the Heschel Papers.
Processing Intern Emanuel works with the Heschel Papers.

The esoteric teacher seems aware of the unlikelihood that his proposition hit its mark: “In your [i.e. Heschel's] case,” he writes, “the rejoinder I judge will be neglect or rejection (the great “no” of [Constantine P.] Cavafy), unless you childishly fear I am trying to edge you into Christianity by a back door.” Whether or not the lures of Pulyan’s coquettishly uncompromising tone did indeed fall flat is difficult to tell, in the absence (for the time being) of other messages from this tough-sounding enlightened master. What the reader is left with is the charm of an unpredictably effective hortatory prose and, as is often the case with this collection, an indecipherable piece of archive, through whose very recalcitrant oracularity a glimmer of a whole universe of meaning is revealed.

Post contributed by Emanuel Fiano, processing intern for the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers in Technical Services.

Capture 2

Heschel Highlights, Part 2

Welcome to the second post in a series documenting the processing of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

Processing the materials in the Abraham Joshua Heschel papers over the past three months has presented interesting challenges, including deciphering a wide assortment of languages represented in the collection (we’re up to nine languages thus far) and determining date ranges for the materials. As a result, we’ve come up with some creative, yet practical solutions to address these challenges and are hopeful they will positively affect how researchers interact with and interpret the materials in the collection.

Language materials

Materials in English make up about 57% of the collection; materials in Hebrew and Yiddish about 38%; materials in German 4%; and materials in Italian, Spanish, French, Latin, and Polish about 1%. There are varying degrees of the amount of language materials in each folder and oftentimes multiple languages are represented in a single folder (sometimes in a single document!). Hebrew is particularly challenging as Heschel not only wrote in Hebrew but also frequently wrote folder titles in Hebrew.

To assist researchers understand the language(s) represented in the collection and its extent, each folder description will include a note identifying the language(s) and its extent in the folder. As an example, if all the materials are in German, the note will read “All materials in German,” or if there is a mix of language materials, the note may read “Most materials in German and Yiddish.” To assist researchers with the folder titles in Hebrew, we will be providing the original folder title in Hebrew, the transliteration of the title, and a translation of the title.

Capture1

Look on both sides!

Heschel tended not to date the materials he authored, nor did he date the folders. However, he does appear to have been a master at recycling paper for his handwritten notes. So far, we’ve discovered he reused coupons, correspondence, receipts, other handwritten notes, memoranda, and (my personal favorite) his student’s blue exam books. In many cases, turning these scraps of paper or documents over has provided essential clues to the date(s) of the materials in the folder.

Looking on the other side of the materials has also had some unexpected benefits by providing additional clues to Heschel that may not have been discovered. As an example, we came across a handwritten table which provides descriptions related to the topic of “Man.”

Capture 2On the reverse side is a draft letter Heschel wrote in 1941, about a year after he arrived in the United States. He asks the recipient of the letter about the availability of a room and if she knows of a place where he could “take one meal every day.” Heschel crossed the letter off and then reused it for other purposes.

Capture 3Stayed tuned for more Heschel Highlights in the near future!

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Heschel Processing Archivist in Rubenstein Technical Services.

Sophia and French manuscripts

Vive la France! et Manuscripts!

A few months ago, I processed the James Ludovic Lindsay Collection of French Manuscripts, which is by far the largest collection I have processed since I started working in Technical Services in October. As a freshman, I was incredibly excited to work on this collection. The collection is composed of 223 items, mostly letters and administrative papers, all dating to the French Revolutionary era (late 18th and early 19th century). Though the collection may not seem extremely appealing, unless you are an administrative papers-type person, it did have a few gems that are worth noting.

Let me begin with a little background on the collection. The collection was assembled by James Ludovic Lindsay, the 26th Earl of Crawford, and formed part of the larger “Bibliotheca Lindesiana,” a sizeable private library that Lindsay inherited from his father, Alexander, in the mid-1800s.  Like his father, Lindsay had a passion for French Revolutionary writings. While Duke does not hold Lindsay’s entire collection (it was auctioned to many different entities), we have acquired a few items that are quite unique.

Sophia and French manuscripts
Processing the Lindsay Collection of French Manuscripts

For example, scattered amongst mostly legal and administrative papers, I discovered a letter addressed to the Emperor Napoleon from a lawyer, Arnoud Joubert. The document was in perfect state, with no visible damage at all. I was most surprised by Joubert’s writing style (we also possess other letters from him). One would think that writing to an Emperor, especially once the monarchy had fallen, would require extreme politeness. However, Joubert did not make an extra effort towards Napoleon. This document, Box 3, Folder 160, made me wonder if there were other items of interest in the collection.

One such letter, from Cardinal Albani addressed to Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, requests the Emperor’s protection from French authorities. What is most interesting about this letter is that it is well-known that Alexander I and Napoleon had a tense relationship, and that Alexander often referred to Napoleon as “the oppressor of Europe and the disturber of the world’s peace.”  This just shows that despite the fall of the monarchy, which hypothetically should have lessened tensions in France, and pleased most French citizens, certain individuals still searched for asylum in other foreign countries.

Another thing that I was not prepared for was how the documents were dated. Many of them used the old French Republican calendar. Unlike our Gregorian calendar, this calendar began with the fall of the French Republic in 1789, which was then renamed Year I. For a little over 12 years, this calendar replaced the commonly used Gregorian calendar in France.

Processing this collection definitely improved my knowledge of older French, and I am confident I can now read any sort of handwriting. Some of the pieces were near illegible, and it was sometimes difficult to decipher what was being said. But do not worry: if you ever have to write a paper on this period, or even if you are just curious about old French manuscripts, you should take a look at these documents.

Post contributed by Sophia Durand, Technical Services student assistant and Trinity ’15.