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Study at Abraham Joshua Heschel School New York

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.

  Roanna Shorofsky

Our Mission

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 individuals.

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 following:

  • 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 study.

  • 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.

Our History

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.

Our Namesake: 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)

Our Growth

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.

Our Students

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.

Our Board

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.

The members 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.

The Abraham Joshua Heschel

High School
20 West End Ave.

New York,

NY 10023-7809


United States Universities, Colleges and Schools

The Abraham Joshua Heschel

High School

20 West End Ave.

New York,

NY 10023-7809