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The Berlin-Hanover Connection

Professor Susannah Heschel achieves prominence wherever she goes. We met up with her in Berlin this week, where she is spending a year as a Fellow at the élite Wissenschaftskolleg, also known as the Institute for Advanced Study Berlin. Her research topic is interesting:

I’m writing on the history of Jewish scholarship on Islam: Starting in the 1830s, European Jewish scholars flocked to the study of Islam. By the 1920s and 30s, they dominated the field at German universities. They established the field, demonstrating parallels between teachings of the Qur’an and rabbinic texts, and praising Islam for preserving Judaism’s strict monotheism, rejection of anthropomorphism, and adherence to an ethical religious law. They argued that Islam was a tolerant religion under whose auspices Jews flourished intellectually and culturally (“Golden Age of Muslim Spain”), and began to build synagogues in Moorish architecture. After Hitler came to power in 1933, some of these scholars went to Palestine, others to the United States, where they created new institutions of Islamic scholarship.


We’ve posted about Susannah before. Like Dartmouth’s best professors, she produces fine scholarship, works closely with students, and plays an important public role. But more importantly, especially since the retirement of cape-sporting English Professor Peter Saccio, nobody on the faculty cuts as dramatic a figure.

Addendum: A loyal reader writes in with a comment and some commentary:

Loved the Heschel piece… I think it is FINE to praise the style of a Prof. At Charles Stinson’s memorial yesterday (where the still dashing Peter Saccio sat in attendance) Prof Stinson was praised by many, including past students, for his warmth, honesty and consistent personal STYLE.

Funny how often a sense of style is interwoven with a sense of justice and fairness.

Also, interesting to hear former Phi Tau members praise him for being there with them to fight when they were down (first consistently CoEd frat and openly accepting of Gay students) AND, more interestingly, to take a stand FOR the Greek system, in general, and against the trends of a current administration on the grounds of justice and fairness.


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