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Heidegger and the Jews - What's Next?

  • Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies 1140 Amsterdam Avenue New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)

Martin Heidegger is considered by many to be the most important philosopher of the twentieth century. Many of his closest and most brilliant students were Jews. So were his teachers. And his thought has left an undeniable mark on Jewish thought. He was, however, also a member of the Nazi party and grounded his politics in his own philosophy. What are we to make of this?

The conundrum of Martin Heidegger and the Jews continues. The recent publications of Heidegger’s private philosophical notebooks reignited the debate over his ties to the National Socialist party and his personal anti-Semitism. These notebooks reveal that Heidegger establishes a philosophical case for his prejudices against Jews, one which arguably cuts to the very heart of his thinking. But this is merely one more chapter in the long and troubling topic of ‘Heidegger and the Jews’ that began almost a century ago but which does not seem to be going away any time soon. As a case in which history, politics and philosophy are weaved together, coming to terms with Heidegger's relation to Jews and Jews' relation to Heidegger requires coming to terms with the complexity of Jews’ responses to the honorable and tragic history they share with Germany and Europe, as it encompasses the predicament of Jewish existence in the twentieth century, with its struggles, hopes, tragedies and attempts of reconstruction.

Supported by the generosity of the Kaye Family.

Co-sponsored by Columbia University's Department of Religion.

Daniel Herskowitz is the current the Rabin-Shvidler Postdoctoral Fellow. Herskowitz graduated from the Department of Theology and Religion in the University of Oxford in 2018 (member of Wolfson College). His dissertation, titled “Which God will Save Us? Jewish Receptions of Martin Heidegger’s Philosophy”, examines central Jewish encounters with Heidegger’s philosophy and argues that Heidegger is a key reference point in the negotiation of the boundaries between Judaism, Christianity, and secularism in twentieth century Jewish thought.

During his DPhil research, he has received several fellowships and awards, including The Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe Fellowship for Jewish Studies, The Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Award, and the Association for Jewish Studies Dissertation Completion Fellowship. His articles have been published or accepted for publication in various peer-reviewed journals, including Modern Theology, Journal of ReligionNew German CritiqueJewish Quarterly ReviewInternational Journal for Philosophy of ReligionAJS Review, and Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy.