The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

Heschel, Abraham Joshua, Rabbi, 1907-1972

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Descriptive Summary

Record Group: Section A - Correspondence

Dates of materials: 1960-1966, 1973, 1983-1985

Volume: 25 item(s); 34 pg(s)

Scope and Content


Rabbi Abraham Heschel was born in Warsaw and later moved to Germany for his studies and to launch his teaching career, serving as successor to Martin Buber in Frankfort for a time. He was forced out of Germany in 1938 by the Nazis. After teaching at London and Cincinnati, he went to Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where he spent the rest of his career save a few stints as visiting chair at other universities. Heschel shared with Merton a way to both speak of God's majesty while remaining prophetic. Heschel wrote of many justice issues of the day in solidarity with Martin Luther King, Jr., and with those opposing the Vietnam War. Merton initiates correspondence with Heschel in 1960. They discussed the Second Vatican Council's statement against war, Schema 13, part of which became Gaudium et Spes, the "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World". Merton was also lending support to the Council's statement on interfaith dialog, which became Nostra Aetate, the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions". When a compromise version of the statement came out that watered down the Jewish-Catholic dialog and had a condescending tone, Merton expressed his disappointment to Heschel and desire for greater unity, "This much I will say: my latent ambitions to be a true Jew under my Catholic skin will surely be realized if I continue to go through experiences like this, being spiritually slapped in the face by these blind and complacent people of whom I am nevertheless a 'collaborator'" (1964/09/09 letter from Merton to Heschel). (Source: The Hidden Ground of Love, p. 430 .)

Usage Guidelines and Restrictions

Related Information and Links

See also published letters from Merton to Heschel in The Hidden Ground of Love, pp. 430-436; and see also additional published letters by Heschel and an essay on Merton and Heschel in Merton and Judaism: Holiness in Words - Recognition, Repentance, and Renewal.

Other Finding Aids

If the person in correspondence with Merton has full text records in the Merton Center Digital Collections, there will be a numeric link to them below.

Series List

This Record Sub-Group is not divided into Series and is arranged chronologically.

Container List

SeriesDateTypeTo/FromFirst LinesPubFull TextNotes
 1960/09/30 TL[c]from MertonAnn Perkins says she spoke on the phone to you about the possibility of my writing you a letter.  praise for collection of Heschel work under the title <i>Between God and Man</i> / sending <i>Disputed Questions</i>
 1960/10/23 HLSto MertonYour kind letter came as a precious affirmation of what I have known for a long time: of how muchYes  
 1960/12/17 TLS[x]from MertonIt was a real pleasure for me to get your good letter of October 23rd and the package of books,Yes  
 1963/01/26 TAL[c]from MertonIt is a great pleasure to have received your fine book on the PROPHETS. I have been anticipatingYes  
 1964/07/27 (#01)TAL[c]from MertonShortly after your visit, that warm and memorable occasion, which was a real and providential gift,Yes  
 1964/07/27 (#02)TL[x] from Merton to Cardinal BeaYesterday I had the very great pleasure of speaking at some length with Rabbi Abraham Heschel whoYes [see "Bea, Augustine" file, copied to Heschel - sent to Bea on 1964/07/14] Jewish Chapter of the Second Vatican Council / healing between Christians and Jews to serve both faiths / the fear of alienation with Moslems vs. the unity of all "people of the Book" in the Koran / promises to Abraham / Protestant ecumenism
 1964/07/31 TL[c]to MertonOur meeting remains a source of delight for me. I think about you frequently and do hope that we   
 1964/09/03 other Chapter Four of the schema on Ecumenicism printed and distributed in November, 1963, to the CouncilYes [circulated statement by Heschel on his views on part of Schema 13 from the Second Vatican Council (later <i>Nostra Aetate</i>)]
 1964/09/09 TAL[c]from MertonYour mimeographed bulletin referring to the revised Jewish chapter has just reached me.Yes  
 1964/09/18 HLSto MertonMy profound gratitude for your letter of Sep. 9. It moved me deeply. It was comfort at a veryYes  
 1964/10/28 (#01)telegramto MertonWe desire to make a public protest against the way in which "morality" is being used as a weapon in  distortion of the term "morality" in presidential campaign / personal flaws verses larger issues of public morality - civil rights, poverty, nuclear war / [Walter W.] Jenkins episode
 1964/10/28 (#02)telegramfrom MertonGladly join you in interfaith statement and protest against hypocritical distortion of morality inYes [to Rabbi Abraham Heschel and Dr. John C. Bennett] agreement with statement by Heschel and Bennett
 1964/10/30 TALSto MertonDoctor Bennett and I were delighted to receive your telegram which was read at the news conferenceYes  
 1965/12/06 (#01)TL[c]from MertonThis matter of business gives me opportunity to say "hello" and to hope you are well. Also to sayYes  
 1965/12/06 (#02)TAL[x] from Merton to Orent, JoelYou write me that you are thinking of taking up your dissertation once again, and you remind me  [letter to Orent copied to Heschel on the same date]
 1966/12/12 TL[c]from MertonFather Abbot spoke to me of your phone call, something about an article on the Bible for <u>Life</u>Yes [incorrectly listed as 1966/12/06 in <i>Merton and Judaism</i>]
 1966/12/15 (#01)TLSto MertonI had certainly hoped when I called to have the pleasure of hearing your voice. You are so oftenYes  
 1966/12/15 (#02)other The Moral Outrage of Vietnam by ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL [-] It is weird to wake up one morning and find  [two page article by Heschel - from <u>Fellowship</u>, September 1966 (of the Fellowship of Reconciliation) - reprinted by the International Committee of Conscience for Vietnam in Nyack, New York]
 1973/12/04 TLS[x]from Center to Heschel, AbrahamMr. Edward Kaplan, a teacher at Amherst College, has requested permission to look at your   
 1973/12/10 TAL[x]from Center to Heschel, AbrahamAfter reviewing your correspondence with Father Merton, I have another request to make. Would you   
 1983/12/09 TLS[x] from Shannon, William / to Sylvia HeschelIt was very pleasant talking with you on the phone this morning. You will recall that I contacted   
 1984/07/08 TLS[x] from Shannon, William / to Sylvia HeschelI am afraid I have been remiss in writing you to thank you for sending the letters to me (the letter   
 1985/06/11 TLS from Heschel, Sylvia / to William ShannonFinally I can mail these letters! Please excuse me for this added delay. There were the Holidays   
 undated/no/no other ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL (1907-1972) [-] Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1907, a descendant of  [draft of William Shannon's introduction and layout of the Abraham Heschel correspondence for the book <i>The Hidden Ground of Love</i>]
 undated/no/no other HESCHEL, Abraham Joshua 1907- [-] PERSONAL: Born 1907, in Warsaw, Poland; son of Moshe  [Heschel's biography photocopied from <i>Contemporary Authors</i>]

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