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Edited by Mirjam Zadoff and Noam Zadoff

The articles collected in Scholar and Kabbalist: The Life and Work of Gershom Scholem present diverse biographical aspects and the scholarly oeuvre of arguably the most influential Jewish-Israeli intellectual of the 20th century. Immigrating to Palestine in 1923, Gershom Scholem became one of the founders of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was the first to establish Jewish Mysticism as a scholarly discipline. The articles collected here reflect the diversity of Scholem’s intellectual scope including his contribution to Jewish Studies as a scholar of Kabbalah, religion and history, as a bibliophile, and an expert librarian of Judaica. Central aspects of Scholem’s impact on Jewish historiography, literature and art in Israel, Europe and the US, are presented to the reader for the first time.
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Nathaniel Berman

Nathaniel Berman’s Divine and Demonic in the Poetic Mythology of the Zohar: The “Other Side” of Kabbalah offers a new approach to the central work of Jewish mysticism, the Sefer Ha-Zohar (“Book of Radiance”). Berman explicates the literary techniques through which the Zohar constructs a mythology of intricately related divine and demonic personae. Drawing on classical and modern rhetorical paradigms, as well as psychoanalytical theories of the formation of subjectivity, Berman reinterprets the meaning of the Zohar’s divine and demonic personae, exploring their shared origins and their ongoing antagonisms and intimacies. Finally, he shows how the Zoharic portrayal of the demonic, the “Other Side,” contributes to reflecting on alterity of all kinds.
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Daniel Pedersen

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This essay deals with the influence of Gershom Scholem’s translations on Nelly Sachs’s poetry. Scholem’s translation of the Zohar was especially important for Sachs’s understanding of Jewish mysticism, and she refers to it both implicitly and explicitly in interviews and in her poetry. It is her encounter with Scholem’s work that propelled her poetry in a new and bold direction during the 1950s. Furthermore, this essay attempts to trace Sachs’s reading of Scholem in light of the influence on Scholem of German Romantic poetry.

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Omer Michaelis

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This essay examines one of Gershom Scholem’s most dialectically tensed fields of study, the study of Hasidism, in relation to the work of another prominent scholar of Hasidism, Joseph George Weiss. Through revisiting both of these authors’ works, I argue that although no direct polemical argument with Scholem can be found in Weiss’s oeuvre, strands of contention can be traced by a series of décalages—displacements, moments of tension—that enable Weiss to continue and reiterate some of Scholem’s arguments and at the same time to divert them into independent paths of exploration. In particular, I focus upon two such cases of décalage: magic and anthropocentrism.

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Elisabeth Gallas

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Between 1944 and 1952, Gershom Scholem was involved in an unprecedented political endeavor: the rescue of nearly a million Jewish books, documents, and ritual objects that had been seized by the Nazis. As emissary of the Hebrew University and later Israeli representative of the officially authorized Jewish trustee organization called Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc., Scholem helped to transfer large parts of the precious cultural property to Israel. This essay sheds light on Scholem’s commitment and discusses his perception of postwar Europe, the Holocaust, and the role of the Yishuv/Israel at the time. His engagement for the salvaging of books can be linked to his scholarly attempts to reassess forgotten Jewish religious and cultural traditions, and it played a pivotal role in his vision of cultural nation-building in Israel as well as in his fight for Jewish survival and continuity after the Holocaust.

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Batsheva Goldman-Ida

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Focusing on Gershom Scholem’s time in Berlin and on his interchange with Walter Benjamin regarding the painting by Paul Klee known as Angelus Novus (1920), I will discuss Scholem’s ideas and exposure to art. I will also examine the application of Scholem’s methodology to art history research.

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Jay Howard Geller

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The social, religious, spatial, and economic history of the Scholem family, from the time it migrated to Berlin from Silesia in the 1810s through to the 1930s, can be largely considered representative of that of the Jews of Germany in general and of Berlin in particular. The first generation in Berlin retained most of their pre-migration social and religious practices while seeking to situate themselves in the expanding metropolis. The second generation catalyzed the transition from traditional Jewish observance and identity and lower-middle-class economic life to the status of middle-class German Jews. The third generation completed the process, living as German citizens of the Jewish faith. However, as German Jews encountered unprecedented opportunities and enormous challenges during World War I and the Weimar Republic, Gershom Scholem and his brothers selected different paths, demonstrating the options that seemed available to German Jews at the time.

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Edited by Mirjam Zadoff and Noam Zadoff

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Edited by Mirjam Zadoff and Noam Zadoff

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Kitty Millet

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In “Redemption through Sin,” Gershom Scholem posits that, “drawing closer to the spirit of the Haskalah all along,” Sabbatians experience a radical transformation “so that when the flame of their faith finally flickered out, they soon reappeared as leaders of Reform Judaism, secular intellectuals, or simply … indifferent skeptics.” The transformation from heretic to intellectual suggested to Scholem that Sabbatianism had migrated into secular culture, specifically literature, which is a thesis that he and Walter Benjamin shared in their discussions of Franz Kafka. Tracing Sabbatianism’s genealogy, and its migration into literature, I speculate on what Scholem believed to be “our Sabbatian future.”