By Morgan Miles, staff writer
Bill Madges, chair of Xavier’s Theology Department moderated a panel discussion on monday about the film Spiritual Audacity: The Abraham Joshua Heschel Story. On Monday.
Before the panelists began, Madges provided background information about Abraham Heschel.
“Heschel was an impactful, spiritual and religious leader during the second half of the 20th century,” Madges said. “He distinguished himself both as a scholar and as an outspoken advocate for the civil rights movement in the 1960s.”
Adam Clark, an associate professor of theology at Xavier, kicked off the panel.
Clark recalled integrating Heschel into his courses about faith and justice with themes of the prophetic, and recognized a favorable response from his students.
For the panel, Clark focused on the relationship between Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’m looking at the way the biblical story of the Exodus is being read and reinterpreted in the modern era,” Clark explained.
Rabbi Jonathan L. Hecht of Hebrew Union College followed Clark’s presentation.
Hecht explained that Heschel spent five years in Cincinnati teaching at Hebrew Union College, and the experience changed Heschel’s life.
Julius Morgenstern, president of Hebrew Union College at the time, knew the threat of European hurt during the rise of the Nazis and set out to save as many Jewish scholars and students as possible — one of them being Heschel.
Rabbi Jennifer Lewis, interfaith program director and Jewish chaplain at Xavier, discussed how the film and Heschel’s work resonated with her.
“As a Rabbi on the Xavier campus, in February this year… We came together as a community of many colors and a community of many faiths. We came together to stand up. At that moment, I drew from Rabbi Heschel and his statements about the evilness of racism,” Lewis said.
Fr. Albert Mascia of the Franciscan Friars was asked to discuss relevant and meaningful aspects of the film or Heschel’s life.
The director of the film, Martin Doblmeier, finished off the panel discussion.
Doblmeier explained that the goal of his film was to teach people outside of the religious world and in mainstream America about Heschel and why he remains important for us today.
He believes it is valuable to keep people like Heschel alive by learning more about them and their work.
During the question and answer segment, a student asked Hecht about the surviving legacy of Heschel in an institution and where that can be seen.
“He saw this intense presence of God in the Black church,” Hecht said, of Heschel. “He really felt the actual presence that God plays in the lives of believers, and it was very strongly pronounced with Martin Luther King Jr.”
The entire panel discussion is available on the Bellarmine Chapel YouTube channel.