A Symposium in Honor of George L. Mosse
Edited By Klaus L. Berghahn
After the Destruction of Jewish Culture in Germany 177
Gershom Scholem between German and Jewish Nationalism David Biale Graduate Theological Union Berkeley, California FOR A GERMAN JEw to claim-and in German at that!-that there never was a dialogue between Jews and Germans is roughly akin to the Cretan claiming that all Cretans are liars. But this is exactly the logical sticky wicket of self-reference into which Gershom Scholem fell-or, better, threw himself-in his famous essay which has shaped so much discussion of the identity of the German Jews ever since. 1 As George Mosse has correctly pointed out, Scholem, like all of his generation of Weimar Jews was a distinct product of what David Sorkin has called the curious subculture of the German Jews, one that owed more to Deutschtum than to Judentum. 2 Although perhaps Steve Aschheim is correct in suggesting that the Enlightenment value of Bildung was less important than later, more vitalistic and apocalyptic tendencies in shaping this identity, 3 it remained an identity quite distinct from that of Jews elsewhere in time and place. Moreover-and this will be my main contention here-Scholem's very rejection of Germany was the product of a uniquely German Sitz im Leben. While many Zionists were to reject the lands of their birth, the German Jewish Zionists did so in ways that were characteristic and often unique to their German context. Since Scholem is such a central figure in the very formation of the way we debate the nature of German Jewish identity, it seems only fitting to revisit him...
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