Our school is an educational
institution committed to and known for academic excellence. What makes
Heschel unique is its profound respect and concern for the whole child,
the integration of disciplines and an emphasis on the development of
critical thinking skills, all in an atmosphere infused with joy.
The School s philosophy springs from the thinking of Rabbi Abraham
Joshua Heschel, a scholar and humanist, who rejoiced in life. Rabbi
Heschel called education "life itself a supreme experience of
living", not merely preparation for life. We passionately embrace
his belief that a good education prepares students to be concerned
citizens of the world.
Our pluralistic approach to Jewish learning and observance provides
children with the opportunity to develop spiritually and intellectually.
By teaching skills of inquiry, we prepare our students to approach
secular and religious texts with confidence; by accepting and
encouraging different points of view, we prepare them to be empathic and
socially responsible human beings.
We invite you to see how we have earned our reputation for educational
innovation and excellence, meet our students and teachers, visit our
classrooms, and experience the joyous and challenging world of The
Abraham Joshua Heschel School.
The Abraham Joshua Heschel School is an independent school named in
memory of one of the great Jewish leaders, teachers, and activists of
the 20th century. Unaffiliated with any single movement or synagogue,
The Heschel School sees as essential the creation of a community with
families from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds, practices and beliefs.
The School is devoted to equal participation boys and girls, men and
women in all aspects of the School s religious, intellectual and
communal life. In our High School, to meet the needs of our diverse
community, we offer prayer options.
The Heschel School is dedicated to the values and principles that
characterized Rabbi Heschel s life: integrity, intellectual
exploration, traditional Jewish study, justice, righteousness, human
dignity, and holiness. It regards the texts of the Jewish tradition and
the history of the Jewish people as fundamental resources for developing
ideas, beliefs, behaviors and values to shape and inspire the lives of
The School s approach to education is governed by profound respect for
children. It nurtures their curiosity, cultivates their imagination,
encourages creative expression, values their initiative and engenders
critical thinking skills. In an academic setting that values open,
engaged inquiry, the School s curriculum interweaves the best of both
Jewish and general knowledge and culture through-out the day. Within the
context of this integrated and interdisciplinary approach, the School
honors the intellectual integrity of the core subjects.
Our educational ideals are drawn from the strands of the Jewish, Western
and world traditions to which we belong. They are reflected in our deep
concern for the whole child and the balance in each child s academic,
aesthetic, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual growth. In
addition, the School seeks to create an environment that encourages the
professional and personal growth of teachers and administrators.
Among the specific goals of The Abraham Joshua Heschel School are the
The Heschel School is
dedicated to fostering a lifelong love of learning. It seeks to
engender the understanding that the discovery of personal meaning
and the growth of individual identity can emerge from the rigors of
The Heschel School
seeks to create an ethical learning community that encompasses the
children, staff, parents and all those who join in the work of the
School. The School values both the uniqueness of each individual
member and the relationships they form with one another.
The Heschel School is
dedicated to cultivating the spiritual lives of its students along
with teaching them the skills to enable them to participate fully in
contemporary Jewish life.
The Heschel School is
dedicated to building bridges between different sectors of the
Jewish community, and between the Jewish community and other
communities, as expressions of our religious imperative to unite
human beings through justice, shared humanity and mutual respect.
The Heschel School is
dedicated to engaging our students in a relationship with the
language, culture, land and people of the State of Israel.
The Heschel School is
dedicated to inspiring its graduates to become responsible adults
and active, compassionate citizens.
Finally, it is our goal that from our midst will come a generation
that will embody the teachings of Rabbi Heschel:
A central concern in Jewish thinking is to overcome the
tendency to see the world in one dimension, from one perspective, to
reduce history exclusively to God s actions or to man s action,
either to grace or to man s initiative. The marvelous and the
mundane, the sacred and the secular, are not mutually exclusive, nor
are the natural and the supernatural, the temporal and the eternal,
kept apart. The heart of the relationship of God and man is
reciprocity, interdependence. The task is to humanize the sacred and
to sanctify the secular.
The Abraham Joshua Heschel School was founded in 1983 by Peter Geffen.
With the encouragement of Rebecca Shahmoon Shanok, founding president of
the Board of Trustees, and the support of Rabbi Judah Nadich (the then
rabbi of Park Avenue Synagogue), as well as many other supporters,
the School opened with 28 students. The School created a new model of
Jewish day school education, one that places a high value on academic
excellence, intellectual exploration, a creative and active learning
style, and integration of Jewish and General studies, along with a sense
of responsibility for the community within the School and beyond.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z l*
The Abraham Joshua Heschel School is named to honor the memory of one of
the great rabbis of the 20th century. Rabbi Heschel was born into a
Hasidic dynasty and spent his early years completely immersed in the
texts, thought, and rhythms of traditional Eastern European Hasidic
life. As a young man he studied in Berlin, receiving a Ph. D. in
philosophy from Humboldt University while studying and teaching at both
orthodox and reform rabbinical seminaries. His move from Eastern to
Western Europe, from yeshiva to university and within the different
Jewish schools of thought reflected his belief in the critical
importance of bridging disparate worlds. Once in America, Rabbi Heschel
continued his work of bridging worlds and of educating people to engage
in a process of internalizing religious traditions in a meaningful way.
Witnessing the growing alienation of modern society, especially in the
wake of World War II, Heschel came to see the internal and social
imperatives of Jewish tradition as critical for world healing. He taught
how Jewish observance nourishes the Jewish soul and creates a spiritual
impulse toward social justice in all communities. Rabbi Heschel wrote:
Every human being has something to say, to think, or to do which
is unprecedented. Being human is a novelty, not a mere repetition or
extension of the past, but an anticipation of things to come A
person has the capacity to create events.
Rabbi Heschel taught by action as well as by text. He marched for civil
rights alongside Dr. Martin Luther King. He initiated concern for Jews
suffering in the Soviet Union. He petitioned the Pope personally, and
successfully influenced the historic change in the Church s teachings
about Judaism and the Jewish people. He was a leader of the religious
community s protest against the War in Vietnam. For Rabbi Heschel, the
classic texts of our tradition (halakhah) provide laws which structure
behavior, and the interpretive writings of our tradition (midrash)
provide poetry for reflection.
*(zikhrono livrakha, may his memory be a blessing)
The demands of an expanding student population led to the purchase of a
first building at 270 West 89th Street, followed by another at 314 West
91st Street that houses the Middle School (grades 6-8). The Heschel High
School (grades 9-12) opened in September 2002 at 20 West End Avenue.
This vibrant and nationally recognized school has close to 540 students
in Nursery through ninth grade.
The years spent at Heschel are a voyage of discovery during which
students learn to seek, to question and to think for themselves while,
at the same time, developing a genuine passion for learning. Creative,
articulate, socially conscious critical thinkers, Heschel students are
prepared to contribute to the larger community.
Independent School trusteeship is a position of leadership, honor and
responsibility. The Board, working very closely with the Head of School,
has the ultimate responsibilty for maintaining the integrity, standing
reputation and the future direction of the School. The Board keeps its
eye on the mission of the School while it manages the changes and
challenges that are part of institutional life. With guidance from the
Head, the Board is responsible for setting policy.
The Board is made
up of parents, educators and friends in the community.
of the Board, who serve as volunteers, support the School through their
hard work, wisdom, and financial resources.
The Board has standing committees, including the Committee on Trustees,
Development, Educational and Religious Policy, Executive, Finance, High
School Education, Personnel, Investment and Audit. In addition,
committees can be created to respond to particular needs. Certain of the
above listed committees welcome members who are not on the Board.