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Spiritual RadicalAbraham Joshua Heschel in America, 1940-1972$
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Edward K. Kaplan

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780300115406

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300115406.001.0001

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Vietnam and Israel (1965–1967)

Vietnam and Israel (1965–1967)

(p.298) 16 Vietnam and Israel (1965–1967)
Spiritual Radical

Edward K. Kaplan

Yale University Press

This chapter illustrates how Heschel became the most visible traditional Jew in the anti-Vietnam war movement. Like thousands of Americans, he opposed U.S. military support for the corrupt Saigon regime, but his dissent had no institutional backing. He was not associated with Reform Judaism, whose leaders were in the vanguard of social action, civil rights, and the antiwar movement. Orthodox rabbis, closer to his observance, either rejected political protest or upheld the government's prosecution of the war. A majority of JTS faculty dissociated themselves from Heschel's involvement. Although some detractors and friendly conservatives considered him politically naive, he kept himself well informed of events. He read the New York Times every day, followed other news sources, and studied books on the international situation. He chose to judge events according to sacred values. He entered the antiwar movement in 1965, after an inner struggle that led him to conclude that the U.S. assault on North Vietnam was “an evil act.”

Keywords:   traditional Jew, anti-Vietnam war movement, Saigon regime, institutional backing, Reform Judaism, orthodox rabbis

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