Podcast Ep #12: Hiddushim:
Letters From the Front
One of the things I love about these letters is that they are a particular vantage point on the lives of Jewish soldiers during the war. The letters don’t deal with battles. They don’t deal with troop movements. They don’t deal at all with the experience of war itself. But there’s a particular way in which you get a real sense of what it means to be a Jewish soldier during World War II because they’re writing to Hebrew College, their home in Boston.– Rabbi Dan Judson
We’re continuing the theme of sharing stories in celebration of Hebrew College’s Centennial, this time in the form of letters from Jewish American soldiers serving in World War II. They were sent from London, from Germany, from the Fiji Islands to the Hebrew College Registrar, Jeanette.
These moving letters were uncovered by Hebrew College Dean and Chief Academic Officer, Rabbi Dan Judson, who found them while writing a chapter on the College’s history for Hiddushim. The letters are read by Susan Shevitz, Associate Professor Emerita at Brandeis University and Hebrew College Trustee, whose research and teaching focuses on organizational culture and change, leadership in nonprofit organizations, and pluralism in Jewish life.
Tune in today for a unique insight into the experience of Jewish soldiers fighting in World War II. These letters contain heartwarming details of Hebrew College alum eating challahs on an unknown island in the Pacific, catching up with old friends in London, and reciting excerpts from the Haggadah in Fiji.
Please enjoy A Prayer for Our Country read by Susan Shevitz, PhD. (And listen to the episode to learn why Susan wanted a special line added to the prayer.)
What You’ll Discover from this Episode:
- The power of the enduring connections that were forged at Hebrew Teachers College.
- How the common themes of Zionism and friendship connect all of these letters.
- The remarkable lack of reflection in these letters about the amount of danger these soldiers were in.
- How these letters give us a unique vantage point on the experience of Jewish soldiers during World War II.
Featured on this Episode:
Rabbi Dan Judson, PhD was appointed Dean and Chief Academic Officer of Hebrew College in 2021 after serving as Dean of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School from 2018-2021. Previously, he oversaw the School’s professional development program, and served as the placement director for the Rabbinical School. He received his doctorate from Brandeis University where his research focused on the history of American synagogue finances. His book, Pennies for Heaven: A History of American Synagogues and Money, was published in 2018.
Susan Shevitz, PhD (reader) is Associate Professor Emerita at Brandeis University where, for over 25 years, she taught in and then directed the Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service (now Jewish Professional Leadership). She has helped numerous foundations, schools, synagogues and agencies plan, implement and/or evaluate programs such as Hebrew charter schools, family education, and professional development programs for Jewish educators. Susan was honored to teach the course, “Leading as a Rabbi” to the first 10 cohorts at Hebrew College’s Rabbinical School.
Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, PhD (host) is Director of the Hebrew College Innovation Lab. He is Research Professor in the Department of Music & Judaic Studies at Tufts University and Senior Consultant for Hillel International. The author of several books, among his many awards are a 2018 Hebrew College honorary degree, a GRAMMY nomination for his CD Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda, the Edgar M. Bronfman Award for Lifetime Accomplishment in Hillel Professional Leadership, and the Tufts Hosea Ballou Medal.
A special thank you for this episode’s musical contributions:
Intro by: Jackson Mercer
Jackson is an Ordination Candidate at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in Newton, MA. He grew up at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, CA where he cultivated a love of Judaism, embolden with music, spirituality and justice.
Esa Einai (Psalm 121:1)
Music by Jackson Mercer
Guitar and Melody by Jackson Mercer
Harmonies by Cantor Rosalie Will, Ilana Sandberg, Rabbi Micah Shapiro, Rabbi Josh Warshawsky, Noah Diamondstein, Ryan Leszner, Eliana Light.
L’cha Ki L’cha (Pesach song), op. 26, no. 1
By Joel Engel, arr. I.R. Meisels
Performed by Cantor Rachel Slusky and Wendy Linden
Members of Hebrew College’s Chamber Choir, Kol Arev