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Gershom Scholem

An Intellectual Biography

Amir Engel

Gershom Scholem

Amir Engel

240 pages | 8 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226428635 Published March 2017
E-book $40.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226428772 Published March 2017
Gershom Scholem (1897–1982) was ostensibly a scholar of Jewish mysticism, yet he occupies a powerful role in today’s intellectual imagination, having an influential contact with an extraordinary cast of thinkers, including Hans Jonas, Martin Buber, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, and Theodor Adorno. In this first biography of Scholem, Amir Engel shows how Scholem grew from a scholar of an esoteric discipline to a thinker wrestling with problems that reach to the very foundations of the modern human experience.
           
As Engel shows, in his search for the truth of Jewish mysticism Scholem molded the vast literature of Jewish mystical lore into a rich assortment of stories that unveiled new truths about the modern condition. Positioning Scholem’s work and life within early twentieth-century Germany, Palestine, and later the state of Israel, Engel intertwines Scholem’s biography with his historiographical work, which stretches back to the Spanish expulsion of Jews in 1492, through the lives of Rabbi Isaac Luria and Sabbatai Zevi, and up to Hasidism and the dawn of the Zionist movement. Through parallel narratives, Engel touches on a wide array of important topics including immigration, exile, Zionism, World War One, and the creation of the state of Israel, ultimately telling the story of the realizations—and failures—of a dream for a modern Jewish existence.
 
Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments

1. The Stories of Gershom Scholem
2. Writing the Myth of Exile: In Search of Political Rejuvenation, 1913–1918
3. Messianism as Symbol: The Lurianic School and the Emergence of a Mystical-Political Society
4. When a Dream Comes True: Zionist Politics in Palestine, 1923–1931
5. Against All Odds: Sabbatean Belief and the Sabbatean Movement
6. For the Love of Israel: The Turn from the Fringe to the Mainstream of Zionist Thinking
7. The Man and the Image

Index

Review Quotes
David Biale, author of Gershom Scholem: Between Mysticism and Modernity
“Engel’s study of Gershom Scholem is rich in original insights, notably the role of Lurianic Kabbalah in Scholem’s politics and the evolution of his presentation of Sabbatianism. His book makes an important new contribution to the growing fascination with this historian of Jewish mysticism, who, as a seminal twentieth-century thinker, was much more than just an historian.”
Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Stanford University
“Engel’s biography of the Jewish scholar Gershom Scholem confronts the reader with a double challenge. Against the most solid preconceptions of the humanities, as a contemporary intellectual and political environment, it patiently documents how philological rigor can turn into philosophical inspiration. But on this trajectory of erudition and thought, it shows that Scholem also crossed the border between a noncommittal affinity with Zionism and Zionism as a radically progressive lifeform and political option.”
Martin E. Jay, University of California, Berkeley
“Engel’s bold retelling of the remarkable life and career of Gershom Scholem is a model of intellectual biography at its most incisive. Skillfully tracing Scholem’s personal itinerary, not only from Berlin to Jerusalem, but also from a Zionism of romantic, anarchistic spiritualism to one of pragmatic, resigned statism, he allows us to appreciate the role historical trauma, both communal and personal, played in his transformation. Even more impressively, he uncovers the ways in which Scholem’s scholarly work on Jewish mysticism and Sabbateanism reflected his growing realization of the dangers of messianic politics in the modern world.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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