He was accused of being too political. Others said he was too spiritual. Certainly he melded the ancient wisdom of the prophets with a modern sensibility to become the symbol of Jewish social action in America during the turbulent 1960s.
When Abraham Joshua Heschel barely escaped Nazi Europe in 1940, the 33-year-old scholar began teaching at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. There he found himself disregarded as a chasidic traditionalist out of step with the Reform movement’s modern, non-observant world.
During an academic conference in Boston last month, Sasha Toperich, a multilingual native of Bosnia-Herzegovina, presented a speech on recent political developments in the Balkans.
That was appropriate — Toperich is a diplomat.
Toperich also gave a concert during the two-day conference.
That, too, was appropriate — he’s a concert pianist.
Ruth Magied sits down at the piano in her Midwood apartment and dives into Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Her fingers lightly, fluently, dance over the keys.
The music stops after a few minutes and Magied stands up. She turns from the piano, the instrument that filled her childhood, to the topic that occupied her adolescence — pain.
“Pain,” she says, “can destroy your brain. It’s like having four root canals that never go away. It’s like having someone hitting you over your head with a frying pan.”