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Lecture at Ithaca College will Address Christian Response to Nazi Persecution of Jews

ITHACA, NY — Historian Susannah Heschel will deliver the annual Holocaust Lecture at Ithaca College on Tuesday, Nov. 9. Heschel will present “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theology and Nazi Racism” at 7:30 p.m. in Emerson Suites, Phillips Hall. Her talk, which is sponsored by the Ithaca College Jewish studies program, is free and open to the public.

Taking place on the anniversary of Kristallnacht — the November 1938 Nazi pogrom against the Jews of Germany and Austria — Heschel will discuss Christian responses in Germany and other countries to Kristallnacht and Nazi anti-Semitism. She will address both those Christians who opposed the Nazi persecution of the Jews and Christian theologians who created a Nazi Christianity.

Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of 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 anti-Semitism. She is the author of “Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus,” which won a National Jewish Book Award and Germany’s Geiger Prize, and “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany.”

During the Third Reich, German Protestant theologians, motivated by racism and tapping into traditional Christian anti-Semitism, redefined Jesus as an Aryan and Christianity as a religion at war with Judaism. According to Heschel, the surprisingly large number of distinguished professors, younger scholars and students who became involved in the effort to synthesize Nazism and Christianity should be seen not simply as a response to political developments, nor simply as an outgrowth of struggles within the field of Christian theology, but as suggesting underlying affinities between racism and Christian theology, affinities they recognized and promoted.

From 1999 to 2008 Heschel served on the Academic Advisory Committee of the Research Center of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Between 2002 and 2007, she convened a series of international conferences at Dartmouth for scholars in the fields of Jewish studies and Islamic studies. The Carnegie Foundation awarded her a Scholar’s Grant that has given her two years of leave to write a book on the history of Jewish scholarship on Islam. During her leave, she is a visiting scholar at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University.

For more information contact Rebecca Lesses, associate professor of Jewish studies and coordinator of the Jewish studies program, at 607-274-3556 or