Gershom Scholem
From Berlin to Jerusalem and Back

Noam Zadoff

2017
344 pp. 15 illus. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"

$40.00 Paperback, 978-1-5126-0113-8
$95.00 Hardcover, 978-1-5126-0112-1
$39.99 E-book, 978-1-5126-0114-5

"[An] excellent study...Zadoff’s deeply researched, carefully considered study of Scholem’s ambivalent place between Zionism and the Germany of his youth will engage readers interested in better understanding the deep connection between the history of Zionism and the world of European thought and culture that Zionists could not leave entirely behind." - Choice

Noam Zadoff Interview with Moses Lapin of New Books Network

"The Secret Metaphysician" - Steven E. Aschheim, Jewish Review of Books

Gershom Scholem

From Berlin to Jerusalem and Back

Noam Zadoff

A new intellectual portrait of a prominent twentieth-century philosopher

Zadoff Gershom Scholem

The German-born Gerhard (Gershom) Scholem (1897–1982), the preeminent scholar of Jewish mysticism, delved into the historical analysis of kabbalistic literature from late antiquity to the twentieth century. His writings traverse Jewish historiography, Zionism, the phenomenology of mystical religion, and the spiritual and political condition of contemporary Judaism and Jewish civilization. During his lifetime, he published over forty volumes and close to seven hundred articles and trained at least three generations of scholars of Jewish thought, many of whom still teach in Israel, Europe, and North America.

Scholem famously recounted rejecting his parents’ assimilationist liberalism in favor of Zionism and immigrating to Palestine in 1923, where he became a central figure in the German Jewish immigrant community that dominated the nation’s intellectual landscape in Mandate Palestine until the World War II. Despite Scholem’s public renunciation of Germany for Israel, Zadoff explores how life and work of Scholem reflect ambivalence toward Zionism and his German origins.

Zadoff divides the book into three parts. He first examines how Scholem created new academic and social circles in Palestine, while at the same time continuing to publish in German and take part in Jewish cultural projects in his country of origin. Zadoff then turns to the reaction of Scholem to the Holocaust and its aftermath, which constituted a turning point in his life. The third part of the book deals with Scholem’s gradual return to the German intellectual world after World War II.

Zadoff's erudite interpretations of Scholem’s scholarship, embedded in its rich social and cultural contexts, show anew the remarkable contested worlds Scholem inhabited, resisted, and accommodated to—sometimes in ways that ran counter to his own self-portrait.

Endorsements and Reviews

“In a complex world, Scholem was a complex figure, one whose intellectual and personal lives were simultaneously part of the history of Israel as well as the history of Germany, something Zadoff understands perfectly.”—Sander L. Gilman, Emory University

"A deeply learned, beautifully written, and persuasively argued study of the complex and conflicted life of Gershom Scholem and the multiple worlds he inhabited. Anyone interested in Scholem, the academic study of Judaism and religion, as indeed in the twentieth century fates of liberalism and Zionism has much to learn from this wonderfully compelling study." —Leora Batnitzky, Princeton University

“Essential reading for those interested in German intellectual history, the modern Jewish experience, and the emergence of Zionism.”—Emily J. Levine, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

“Zadoff’s profoundly original biography returns Scholem from the Land of Israel to Europe. Zadoff shows the foremost Zionist intellectual as embedded in Weimar Germany’s intellectual life and becoming, later in his life, an icon of German Jewishness. Brilliant!”—Malachi Haim Hacohen, Duke University

NOAM ZADOFF is an assistant professor of Jewish studies and history at Indiana University.

This book can be purchased directly through the University Press of New England.