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Jan. 28, 2004 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Kabbalah, Poetry and Imagination: Conference on the poetry and scholarship of Gershom Scholem



Gershom Scholem revealed the Kabbalah to the 20th century with brilliant success. But in his private poetry, he questioned and reflected on his scholarship and his quest for God. This poetry has now been collected for the first time, and to celebrate its appearance the University of Chicago will host a unique set of performances and reflections on Feb. 1-2.

Before Scholem began his studies, many considered Jewish mysticism to be nothing more than an obscure superstition. In his major works, Scholem illuminated Kabbalah from its origins, showing that it emerged as an intellectually complex and spiritually creative response to the mystery, or even the absence, of God. One of the pioneers of scholarship in Israel, Scholem put Judaism and mysticism on the academic map worldwide.

Last year, his poetry was collected for the first time and published as The Fullness of Time (information at, and next week Paul Mendes-Flohr, Professor of Modern Jewish Thought in the Divinity School and the Committee on Jewish Studies, will convene a conference to reflect on its significance. He described the poetry: “The poems were written for private occasions, mostly in the 1920s and 1930s, and deal with the events and issues of Scholem's life: Zionism, Jewish destiny, mysticism, the epistemology of language and above all, his friendship with Walter Benjamin. The lectures, the music and the poems themselves will illuminate these themes.”

The Poetic Imagination and Mysticism: The Poetry and Scholarship of Gershom Scholem

Sunday, Feb. 1

  • 7 - 8:30 p.m., Fulton Recital Hall, Goodspeed Hall, 1010 E. 59th St.
    From Berlin to Jerusalem: The Journey of the Jewish Liederabend
    A musical evening remembering the aesthetic worlds of Gershom Scholem, performed by members of the New Budapest Orpheum Society

Monday, Feb. 2

  • 2 - 7:15 p.m., Swift Lecture Hall, 1025 E. 58th St.
    Gershom Scholem: The Poet
    Chair: Paul Mendes-Flohr (University of Chicago)
    • 2 - 2:45 p.m. “Scholem, the Poet: A Publisher’s Perspective”- Peter Cole, publisher, Ibis Editions, Jerusalem (
    • 2:45 - 3:45 p.m. “Philologist’s Abyss: Some Thoughts on the Poetry of Gershom Scholem” by Steven Wasserstrom, editor of The Fullness of Time and author of Religion after Religion, “a fascinating study of the great makers of the modern myth of religion,” including Scholem, and Chicago’s Mircea Eliade
    • 3:45 - 4:15 p.m. Break
    • 4:15 - 5 p.m. Readings from Gershom Scholem’s The Fullness of Time: Poems (Ibis Editions, 2003), chaired by Philip Bohlman (University of Chicago Music Dept.): English, Peter Cole; German original, Berthold Hoeckner (University of Chicago German Dept.)

    Gershom Scholem: The Scholar
    Chair: Bernard Wasserstein (University of Chicago)
    • 5 - 5:45 p.m. “Gershom Scholem’s ‘Fröehliche Wissenschaft’” by Menachem Brinker (University of Chicago Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations)
    • 5:45 - 6:30 p.m. “The Lamentations of Youth” by Antony David (Tucson, Arizona)
    • 6:30 - 7:15 p.m. “The Anarchic Promiscuity of All Living Things: Scholem’s Heresy and the Modern Jewish Predicament”- Benjamin Lazier (University of Chicago Harper Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences)

    Last modified at 01:45 PM CST on Thursday, January 29, 2004.

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