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Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations

Susannah Heschel Presents Inaugural Goldziher Lecture

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On Thursday, April 15, 2010, the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations presented the Inaugural Goldziher Lecture on Jewish-Muslim Relations.

Made possible by a generous grant from the William and Mary Greve Foundation, Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, spoke on “Intrigued With Islam: Jewish Scholars, Travelers and Converts in Modern Europe.”

You can now watch the lecture in its entirety on YouTube!  Click HERE.

Named after Ignác Goldziher, the great 19th-century Hungarian Jewish Islamicist who revered Islam and raised Islamic Studies to a pinnacle of academic appreciation in the 19th century European university system, this lecture described the rise of Islamic Studies in Europe during the long 19th century, a field shaped by Jewish scholars, particularly in Germany, France, and Hungary.  Prof. Heschel talked about the ways Jewish scholars turned Islam into a template through which they explained and defended aspects of modern Judaism for a Christian readership.  Studies of the rationality and ethical nature of Islam’s legal traditions, its monotheism, and its rejection of anthropomorphism, became surrogates for a defense of Judaism’s legal and theological traditions.  Jewish scholarship on Islamic origins, and the widely-read narratives of Jewish travelers to Islamic countries, particularly in Great Britain, shaped European images of Muslims as well as of Jews.  The Jewish admiration for Islam ultimately led some Jews to convert to Islam, some of whom became significant religious leaders, while others became political representatives who negotiated with European leaders.

Susannah Heschel holds the Eli Black Professorship in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. Her scholarship focuses on Jewish-Christian relations in Germany during the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of biblical scholarship, and the history of antisemitism. Her numerous publications include Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus, which won a National Jewish Book Award, and The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany.  Prof. Heschel is currently on sabbatical from Dartmouth for two years, thanks to a Scholar’s Grant from the Carnegie Foundation, and is writing a book on the history of Jewish scholarship on Islam. She is currently in residence at the Humanities Center at Tufts University.