Date of Award

Summer 7-16-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Braiterman, Zachary J.


Affect theory, American Judaism, Civil Rights, Heschel, Holocaust, Jewish studies

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Jewish Studies | Religion


This dissertation asserts that Heschel's work ought to be viewed as affective and emotional. Understanding Heschel's work as both creating and encouraging particular affects enables a more robust and fuller understanding of American Jewish postwar life. Specifically, American Jewish postwar life was animated by a nostalgia for the shtetl, a desire to connect with the State of Israel, a longing to create meaningful Jewish ritual, and uncertainty about the place of American Jews in broader social justice movements. Heschel views humans as interconnected in a web of affects and emotions; through affects, humans are connected to God, history and memory, and one another. The Emotional Heschel isolates emotions in particular works as indicative of the changing emotional and cultural landscape of postwar American Jews. The Emotional Heschel examines four constellations of affects found in Heschel's work and speaks of these constellations' relevance to the changing postwar American Jewish community. Firstly, this dissertation examines the way Heschel writes of emotions surrounding the Holocaust and lost Eastern European Jewish community coupled with the dread and rage Heschel encompasses when discussing the Holocaust. Secondly, this dissertation posits that The Sabbath can be read as a discussion about changing gender norms and debates about the authenticity and/or inauthenticity of American Judaism. Thirdly, this dissertation isolates feelings of joy, anxiety, and embarrassment surrounding the State of Israel in Israel: An Echo of Eternity. In Israel: An Echo of Eternity, it is appropriate to be concerned about Israel's survival, joyous at Israel's military victories, and embarrassed at being a diaspora Jew throughout Israel's wars. Lastly, this dissertation examines the figure of the Hebrew prophet in The Prophets in conjunction with Heschel's own political activism as an example of the affects and emotions experienced during social justice work upon the existing landscape of cultural and social change of the Jewish community.


Open Access