As the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, knows the importance of interfaith dialogue, as well as what happens when it breaks down.
While there have been no shortage of rocky episodes in Jewish-Christian relations, few are as dark as the Nazi era. Heschel’s most recent book, “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany,” due out in paperback in October from Princeton University Press, tackles this difficult subject head on. As the publisher’s blurb bluntly asks: “Was Jesus a Nazi?”
Heschel relates how in 1939, at Martin Luther’s former stamping grounds of Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany, Protestant theologians founded the so-called Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life. For six years, she writes, “as the Nazi regime carried out its genocide of the Jews, the Institute redefined Christianity as a Germanic religion whose founder, Jesus, was no Jew but rather had fought valiantly to destroy Judaism, falling as victim to that struggle.”