Heschel chosen as Carnegie scholar
By Erin Jaeger, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, April 14, 2008
Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish studies at the College, has been chosen as one of 20 Carnegie Scholars for 2008 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the organization announced April 7. The scholarship will fund Heschel's two-year sabbatical from teaching during which she will research and write her new book, tentatively titled "The Monotheistic Triangle: Judaism and Islam in the Modern Christian World."
"Most of the work I'm going to do is library work, but I would also like to talk to people in the field of Islamic and Jewish studies," Heschel said of her research plans. "I would like to spend some time at Harvard and Princeton, too, maybe a semester at each. They both have strong programs in both fields."
The Carnegie Corporation of New York, founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," provides funding and support to "well-established and promising young thinkers, analysts and writers" through two-year grants of up to $100,000, according to the corporation's web site. This year's class of Carnegie Scholars is the fourth consecutive class to focus its research on Islam. Ninety-one Carnegie Scholars have studied the topic since the program's inception in 2000.
Heschel, who submitted a five-page research proposal to the Corporation in the fall, learned in December that she was a finalist for the scholarship.
"I was sure I would never get it," Heschel said of the award. "I didn't even think about it after I applied. It was just out of the realm of possibility."
Heschel's book will compare how Jews and Muslims modernized their religions in response to Christian views about religious pluralism, anti-semitism and islamophobia. The book will also trace the social and political attitudes experienced by European Jews prior to World War II and by Muslims in the 20th century.
"I'm interested in Jewish scholarship and how Jews write the history of the Quran and their own Jewish identity," Heschel said. "I want to explore the question of what it means to write the history of your own religion, as well as someone else's."
Additionally, Heschel hopes that her book will make public policy suggestions that will spark dialogue about modern religious pluralism.
"I will also relate the historical sections of my study to public policy when considering the problem of race," Heschel wrote in her final proposal. "I want to expose the racial stereotyping that continues today to distort understandings of Muslims and Jews."
Heschel was in the midst of planning a dinner party for her students to celebrate the end of Winter term when she learned that she had been named a Carnegie Scholar.
"There was a lot of rejoicing on the third floor of Thornton Hall [when I received the call]," she said. "Then I had to go home and cook."
Heschel said she was touched when her students brought her flowers of congratulations that night.
"I celebrated with my students that night," she said. "The timing was perfect. It was the nicest thing."