Emelda DeCoteau

Rabbi Heschel inspired me to start an online community and podcast.

Podcaster, Pray with Our Feet
Baltimore, Maryland
A Christian Perspective

Where did you first encounter Heschel’s work?

Several years ago, I was searching for a connection between activism and faith. For as long as I can remember, I have felt drawn to speaking out against injustice, but sadly, didn’t find a place for it in many church spaces. One day, while reading about Dr. King’s later years and writings, I stumbled across a short blog post on Rabbi Heschel and his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement.

How did Heschel and his thinking inspire your work, religious life, or civic engagement?

Rabbi Heschel inspired me to start an online community and podcast (which I cohost with my mom), Pray with Our Feet. We highlight the intersection of progressive Christianity and social justice through interviews with ministers, activists, artists, and thinkers.

The idea came alive after reading about Rabbi Heschel’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and commitment to seeing faith and activism as deeply connected.

There’s an incident from his life that really resonates with me because it lifts up how central faith is along our journey to creating a better world (described here):

When Rabbi Heschel returned from Selma, he was asked by someone, ‘Did you find much time to pray, when you were in Selma?’ Rabbi Heschel responded, ‘I prayed with my feet.’ What was his point? That his marching, his protesting, his speaking out for Civil Rights was his greatest prayer of all.

Rabbi Heschel’s legacy is one of activism built upon his relationship with God. He challenged us to see each other as human beings created in the image of God. Only then can we love, esteem, and value others. After 50 years, his voice is that of a modern-day prophet reminding each of us that racism is the ultimate evil perpetuated by humanity.

What of Heschel lives in you?

Heschel’s commitment to human rights, antiracism, and love for humanity and God live within us. These values (which he beautifully embodied) drive the work Mom and I do together, and ground us in a deeper presence with the world. Heschel often spoke of the wonder and amazement of God:

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

His words, legacy, and life push us to awaken continually.

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