Saturday, September 2, 2017

Imaginary Homelands: Stefan Zweig, Gershom Scholem, and George Prochnik

George Prochnik

Two great Jewish writers and intellectuals of the twentieth century, Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) and Gershom Scholem (1897-1982): on one side we have the cosmopolitan advocate of humanistic tolerance, mutual understanding, and peaceful European integration who was forced out of Europe and died in isolation far from home in Brazil, while on the other side we have the Zionist and pioneering scholar of kabbalah whose search for the deep historical and existential roots of his Jewish identity led him to leave Europe behind of his own volition to build a new home in Palestine. The American author George Prochnik has published an impressive biographical diptych about these two famous personalities and their very different experiences and perspectives: The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World was published in 2014, and Stranger in a Strange Land: Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem came out in 2016. I found these two books to be full of valuable insights that carry deep relevance for the political and cultural conflicts we are currently experiencing. Just like about a century ago, once again we find the Humanistic and Enlightenment ideals of “cosmopolitanism and secular liberalism” pitted against the Counter-Enlightenment forces of “nationalism, religion, and identity politics.” What can we learn from comparing Zweig and Scholem?

Stefan Zweig in 1917

“I love the Diaspora,” Zweig wrote to Martin Buber in 1917. He went on to explain that he had “never wanted the Jews to become a nation again and thus to lower itself [sic] to taking part with the others in the rivalry of reality” (Exile, 134). When Buber responded by restating his Zionist convictions, Zweig insisted: “the more the dream threatens to become a reality, the dangerous dream of a Jewish state with cannons, flags, medals, the [sic] more than ever am I resolved to love the painful idea of the Diaspora” (135). Zweig felt perfectly at home in his native Austrian culture because he considered himself a citizen of Europe and the international republic of letters. Frankly, he could afford it. Born in 1881 in a very affluent Jewish family in Vienna, he seems to have been absolutely fine with both the ideals and the realities of cultural and ethnic assimilation that had worked out so beautifully for him. Almost to his own surprise – he never had a particularly high opinion about himself as a writer – all doors to fame and success seemed to open almost by themselves and he enjoyed a dream career as a writer. The world was his oyster. 

Gershom Scholem at twenty-seven
What a difference with Scholem! Born in 1897 as the son of a printer living in Berlin, he was sixteen years younger than Zweig and rebelled violently against his bourgeois father with his strong assimilationist views. If Zweig felt he belonged to the German people (meaning the German-speaking peoples of Europe), Scholem would later dismiss such feelings of belonging as “a lurid and tragic illusion” for Jews, even on the level of culture alone (147; Stranger, 9). While Zweig was a typical representative of Liberal Humanism in the tradition of his hero Erasmus, Scholem’s deep concern was with his Jewish identity and he became a vocal activist on behalf of the Zionist cause. For Zweig, leaving Europe meant exile. For Scholem it meant liberation.

The Cosmopolitan Idealist

Reading Zweig’s autobiography Die Welt von Gestern (The World of Yesterday) in tandem with Prochnik’s The Impossible Exile about Zweig’s final years means receiving an introduction to the original meaning of Liberalism as an ethical and humanitarian ideal with deep roots in European history. Zweig had no sympathy for the American culture of capitalist consumerism that – especially in the form of its radical “Neoliberal” upgrade since the 1980s – is so often confused with Liberalism today. On the contrary, he felt that “global dance crazes, mass fashion, popular cinema, et cetera were leveling the cosmos of human expression ‘into a uniform cultural schema’,” and feared that “[t]he United States had inaugurated a ‘rush into servitude’ of the masses, clearing the way psychologically for dictatorships of every variety to seize power. If the Great War marked the first phase of Europe’s destruction, he concluded, ‘Americanization is the second’” (Exile, 235-236). Of course such words sound uncannily prescient today. In fact, reading Prochnik’s description of how the refugee Viennese psychoanalyst Ernst Kris discussed Hitler, I could not help noticing that he might as well have been talking about Donald Trump. The principles of demagoguery seem universal:

[Hitler] once said the masses were so dumb and so feminine, they would take anything you told them, so long as it was expressed in the manner of advertising catchphrases. “Truth is of no avail, but there must be an ideology behind it, something to inspire the imagination,” Kris explained (152).

As an alternative to the degenerate culture of American consumer capitalism, Zweig did not advocate a return to nationalism or a revival of populist Blut und Boden sentiments but quite their opposite: a Pan-European humanism grounded in tolerance and mutual understanding as guiding ideals that should be passed on from one generation to the next by means of responsible education, or Bildung. His confidence in this approach seemed boundless:

Reverence for Bildung, that magically potent idea of holistic, rigorously intellectual character development, predicated on fluency in the canon of Western knowledge, had made it impossible for educated Germans to take Hitler seriously, Zweig wrote. It was simply inconceivable that this “beer-hall agitator” who had not even finished high school, let alone college, “should ever make a pass toward a position once held by a Bismark, a Baron von Stein, a Prince Bülow.” In consequence, Zweig said, even after 1933 the vast majority still believed Hitler was only a kind of stopgap, and that the Nazis would prove a transient phenomenon.
What Zweig did not make explicit in his memoir was that he’d made this mistake himself. No one placed a greater trust in the redemptive power of cultural education than did Zweig, who expressed his faith, even after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, that the Third Reich would prove only a brief hiccup en route to the unification of Europe – the coming “world Switzerland,” as he labeled it. It took years for Zweig to really absorb the notion that the masses’ indifference to intellectual and cultural achievements might be a lasting condition. … The best response to Hitler’s popularity was not to demonize his supporters, Zweig believed, but to communicate to them the value of the rich German cultural legacy that was being jeopardized by Nazi politics (62-63).

Today, of course, it is very easy for us to dismiss such statements as tragically naïve – much easier, in any case, than it is to explain how and why an attitude of dismissive cynicism about such highminded ideals should be any more likely to succeed! As Prochnik puts it – and I agree –, “Illusions are not to be eliminated but encouraged, since only the powers of imagination can summon a vision of a more humane future” (255). Zweig did believe deeply in the value of building bridges, by cultivating generosity and empathy (137) instead of hatred and suspicion. Seeking out alternatives to the privileged milieu of his own upbringing, during his younger years he spent much of his time “at motley bars and cafés squeezed between ‘heaving drinkers, homosexuals and morphine addicts’,” for (as he commented) “the worse someone’s reputation was the more I wanted to know him personally” (90). This fascination with the so-called “losers” and social outcasts who populated the seedy underbelly of bourgeois society was linked to an acute ethical awareness that “between power and morality there was rarely a bond but rather an unbridgeable gap” (358). The power that came with his own position as a famous writer never seems to have blinded him to the moral arbitrariness of the privileges he enjoyed. In other words, he never thought that his talent and success made him “better” than others. Having been accepted as a refugee by several countries in succession, these are his words to one of his benefactors in the last of them, Brazil:

You have been kind enough to honor me, to welcome me among you. I should feel proud and happy. But I must confess to you that at a time like this I am not able to feel happy and still less to feel proud. On the contrary, I feel heavy at heart that you should show me such friendship while countless people, our own and others, are suffering. We as human beings, and especially as Jews, have no right in these days to be happy. … We must not imagine that we are the few just people who have been saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of our special merits. We are not better, and we are not more worthy than all the others who are being hunted and driven over there in Europe (208).

The inevitable counterpart to Zweig’s humanitarian idealism was the deep despair he felt about the collapse of European culture and civilization caused by the Nazi takeover: as Prochnik puts it, towards the end of his life he seems to have lost all hope because he had “ceased to believe his works were part of any larger edifice” (259). He was haunted by premonitions of catastrophe, years before they became reality: “my nose for political disaster tortures me like an inflamed nerve” he told Joseph Roth in 1936 (130, cf. 218, 285). Just days before the Anschluss he was watching in helpless horror as his fellow-Austrians were blissfully doing their Christmas shopping and going about their daily affairs: “Don’t you understand? All this will be gone in a few months’ time. Your homes will be plundered. Your clothes will be changed for prison garb” (176).

Prochnik gives much attention to the international refugee crisis that followed the Nazi takeover: “The trickle. The stream. The flood. And then people surging all over the globe, falling from the skies, splashed up by the seas, hurled helter-skelter by the wildly spinning red-and-black wheel” (204). In an analysis that should sound bitterly familiar to us today, he points out that even though the numbers of refugees that actually made it to America were astonishingly small, intentional propaganda and general paranoia caused many Americans to believe that their country was overrun with “millions of refugees,” “swamped with exiles to the point where millions of jobs and democracy itself were at risk” (205). Where have we heard such things before? For Zweig personally, exile brought the bizarre realization that while his “intellectual fatherland” no longer considered him to be German, the British did classify him as “German,” that is to say, as an “enemy alien” (164-165). In short, he found himself rejected by both Germans and non-Germans.
What then about his Jewish identity? It didn’t help either. In a highly illuminating passage, Prochnik points out that for Zweig, the defining experience of exile turned out to be that of “being forced to identify with people who bore no relation to him” (164). He wrote that most Jews in Western Europe had no clue about why they were being thrown together for persecution (163):

[they were] no longer a community and had not been one for a long time. They had no law. They did not want to speak Hebrew together. Only exile swept them all together, like dirt in the street. … If Shylock’s famous question – “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” – was intended to show that the Jews share a common humanity with all mankind, Zweig approached the injustice of anti-Semitism by revealing the total absence of common ground between the Jews themselves (164).

And that brings us to one of the most harrowing passages in the book, at least to this reader. Prochnik begins by discussing the famous passage in the 2nd chapter of Mein Kampf where Hitler describes how he became an anti-semite. On the streets of Vienna he saw an orthodox Jew in a long caftan with black curls, and found himself wondering “Is that a German?” His conclusion was that only the German language made it possible for Jews to pass as real members of the Volk: in fact they were cosmopolitans who could “speak a thousand languages,” and “if they ever got into power they would force everyone to speak an international language such as Esperanto” (155). From there, Prochnik cuts straight to a scene shortly after Zweig went into exile. He spent an evening in a Yiddish theater in London together with Otto Zarek, where they watched a performance about Jewish ghetto life in Russia:

… after the show Zarek was struck by Zweig’s state of acute nervous agitation. He could not contain his inner excitement. “These old Jews,” Zweig said, “in their grotesque dresses, their beards unshorn, their eyes flaming, these adherents to Chassidism … they are our brethren.” It was only the measures toward assimilation taken by their great-grandparents that had kept them from looking just like those Jews did, Zweig told Zarek. Had it not been for their near forebears, the two of them would have ended up “believing in what they believe,” considering “our life in the midst of the Western world as just a transitory period – we, too, would harbour in our very hearts, the dreams of our eventual ‘return to the land of our forefathers’.” Zweig comes within a hair of saying, “There but for the grace of God.” But Zarek said that Zweig’s voice took on a note of despair and resignation, as he registered that he hadn’t, after all, quite dodged the bullet (156).  

Prochnik hardly needs to spell it out. To his enormous distress, Zweig was experiencing the very same kind of instinctive prejudice that had made Hitler an antisemite, and of course he was far too sensitive and intelligent not to realize it. In his own life he had always sought to emulate the spirit of Schiller: “I write as a citizen of the world. Early did I exchange my fatherland for mankind” (156). But now Hitler had deprived him of the community of language that constituted his true spiritual fatherland, and - not unlike what happens to the rich kid in Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” - those outcasts and “others” with whom he felt no spontaneous kinship had suddenly become his closest brethren whose company he could not avoid: “go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse…”
            Once upon a time Zweig had told Buber that he loved the diaspora, but now he had become a refugee himself and there was nothing he loved about it. He was longing not for the land of Israel (it struck me that he never seems to have considered seeking refuge in Palestine), nor for the Austria in which he had grown up. He missed Europe: his invisible community of the spirit, his universal republic of humanitarian brotherhood, his true cosmopolitan fatherland that represented inner freedom and unlimited possibilities, a land without borders that would welcome all comers. This was his true home, and it had come crashing down all around him. In the long run, the loss proved unbearable. On 22 February 1942, Stefan Zweig was found dead in his Brazilian home. He and his young wife Lotte had committed suicide together.

Stefan and Lotte Zweig on their deathbed

Quite like his model of Enlightened Liberal Humanism Erasmus (whom he painted in sharp contrast to Luther as the archetypal “fanatic” with evident traits of Hitler), Zweig had never been a fighter. “I can only write positive things; I can’t attack” (65, cf. 290). Irmgard Keun once described this natural-born pacifist as “one of those noble Jewish types who, thin-skinned and open to harm, lives in an immaculate glass world of the spirit and lacks the capacity themselves to do harm” (246).

The Dialectical Zionist

In this regard his disposition could not have been more different from that of Scholem. While Zweig was ultimately powerless to defend himself against the forces that destroyed his glass world of the spirit, Scholem seems to have been born a rebel and a firebrand, a fighter by nature. It would seem that throughout his life, the only way he could conceive of anything whatsoever was in terms of dialectical struggle ruled by the paradoxical logic of coincidentia oppositorum. For Zweig, losing all hope could only mean that no hope was left – obviously. But Scholem’s logic worked differently: “In his final years he was very hopeless. He said that now the only thing that remained was hope,” his widow recalled (426). The paradoxicality of such a remark has Scholem written all over it.
            This profoundly dialectical mentality ruled Scholem’s life and career. I consider it the key not only to understanding his concepts of Zionism and of Jewish mysticism, but ultimately to understanding everything he ever did or thought. Consider the following list of conflicts and oppositions, which makes no claim to completeness:

Scholem emigrated “from Berlin to Jerusalem” in spite of (or rather, I suspect, because of!) his core conviction that Zion was a messianic dream that could not and in fact should not be realized in this world. As a scholar searching for the roots of authentic Judaism, he explored the broader world of Hellenistic “paganism” and its legacy: I think he was driven by an intuition that the secret of Jewish life could be found precisely in the culture of the idolaters. As a model “historian’s historian,” he insisted on strict philology and textual criticism but applied these methods precisely to the “non-historical” world of mythical symbolism that appeals to the imagination rather than to strict literalism. While Jerusalem was in a state of siege, and extreme violence was rampant, he sat down to write a famous essay (analyzed at length by Prochnik) exploring the notion of “redemption through sin.” Scholem’s life-long search was for the authentic secret at the heart of Jewish tradition, as an alternative to the Germany he rejected, and yet the hermeneutics that allowed him to discover Jewish secrets was grounded in German scholarship, German Idealism, German Romantic speculation. He never ceased emphasizing that der Liebe Gott lebt im Detail, so that only by focusing on the particular and the unique could one gain lasting insights and discover general or even universal truths - and yet, he knew that without such general perspectives and a search for the universal, one would never succeed in opening the closed shell of the particular in the first place, and would fail to discover its hidden contents. Scholem could be described as a Jewish representative of the interwar “conservative revolution” who tried to impact the future of Judaism not by rejecting past traditions but by preserving and reviving them. In short, Scholem was a modernist struggling (like all modernists) with modernity itself. He was a rationalist driven by the energy of the non-rational: “my secularism is not secular” (58-59).

Whereas Zweig’s despair ended up killing him, Scholem’s dialectical mindset seems to have enabled him to use it as a creative force, as he wrote in a letter to Hugo Berman in 1947: “I live in despair, and only from the position of despair can I be active” (Briefe I, 331). In an earlier discussion of Scholem, I concluded that, for him

… the fact that eternity cannot appear in time mean[t] that the hope that sustains Jewish identity through history can only be called an “aspiration to the impossible.” Under these conditions, the historian must have the courage to “descend into the abyss” of history, knowing that he might encounter nothing but himself, and guided by nothing but a desperate hope for the impossible: that against all human logic, the transcendent might inexplicably “break through into history” one day, like “a light that shines into it from altogether elsewhere” (Hanegraaff, Esotericism and the Academy, 297).

Prochnik reads Scholem’s story as a mirror of his own. His book consists of two interwoven narratives, one of which traces the first four decades of his subject’s life (from his adolescent years of Sturm und Drang in Berlin to his reaching maturity as a scholar in Jerusalem during the 1930s), and one that describes his own deeply personal search for an authentic Jewish identity that led him and his wife Anne to emigrate from New York to Jerusalem in the mid-1980s. Scholem’s beginnings were very different from Prochnik’s though. He depicts himself and his wife as a couple of young starry-eyed idealists driven to Jerusalem on the wings of “a dream of compassion” (87). By contrast, the young Scholem was an angry extremist who “went into overdrive” (109) around the age of seventeen:

Thinking about the collapse of Europe led him to picture the Land of Israel as a kind of womb, streaming with the ages, awaiting insemination. … Scholem took solitary walks … during which he would scream out speeches that he ordinarily whispered. People stared at him, and he blushed. … He imagined a novella about his own suicide … “I would shoot myself after concluding that there was no solving the gaping paradox in the life of a committed Zionist.”
Paradoxes, rages, fears, and desires were flying off the fabric of his being like burst buttons and seams. Raving on the street in some paroxysm of humiliation and fury, he might have hurled himself in front of a train or off a bridge. He might also have leaped on his father with any weapon at hand. He seems to come within a razor’s breadth of some irrevocable act of destruction. Scholem’s whole story might have ended before he ever reached Jerusalem. He craved too desperately for an impossible purity (110).

Reading such passages, I could not ignore the contemporary parallels, uncomfortable as they might be. Prochnik describes a youthful Zionist hothead, in full rebellion against his father’s demand that he sacrifice his Jewish identity by “assimilating” and becoming an obedient member of German bourgeois society. Today we have the phenomenon of youthful Jihadist radicals born in the West, who likewise refuse the dictates of cultural “integration” and declare total war on Liberal society in the name of Islamic purity. Scholem’s brand of Jewish identity politics seems an extreme counterpart to the Liberal universalism represented by intellectuals such as Zweig, and often enough he would find himself brandishing “the torch of ethnic-historical particularity against the ambient moral glow of universal ideals” (105).
Still it is important to emphasize that, for all his violent feelings of revolt, Scholem’s Zionism was predicated on the ideal of a peaceful settlement between Jews and Arabs. Having arrived in Jerusalem, he became a core member of the Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace) movement that would later be described by one of its founders, Hugo Bergmann, as “the last flicker of the humanist nationalist flame, at a historical moment when nationalism became among all the nations an anti-humanist movement” (304). Sympathetic as its ideals might be, Prochnik does not spare his critique: Brit Shalom’s slogan “Neither to dominate nor be dominated” sounds somewhat less commendable if one realizes that its “commitment to absolute political equality with the Arabs was presumptuous at a time when Jews were still less than 20 percent of Palestine’s overall population” (305). Likewise, Scholem’s commitment seems to have been inspired more by “his aspirations for the ideal manifestation of Zionism” (307) than by any deep sense of fellowship with his Arab neighbors.
Prochnik does not try to conceal the similarity of such attitudes to those of Anne and himself during their years in Jerusalem. Like Scholem, they desperately wanted to believe in the Zion of their dreams, but they had trouble seeing what was actually going on all around them in the state of Israel. Wondering what it must have been like for Scholem to enter Jerusalem for the first time, in late September 1923, Prochnik expresses doubt about whether the actual land of his forefathers had any reality for him at all:

Did Scholem in fact see where he was once he arrived here – really notice it? In the hundreds upon hundreds of pages he wrote from Jerusalem, he barely makes mention of the natural surroundings. He might be writing from space, from a black box theater, or – most plausibly – from between old manuscript pages” (243).

Prochnik’s own descriptions of Israel are far more attuned to the natural environment, but he admits with brutal honesty that he and Anne – for all their idealism and excellent good intentions – had been utterly oblivious to the social and political realities of the state of Israel, until Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination on 4 November 1995 finally opened their eyes: “Anne and I hardly realized…,” “we gathered…,” “we had no clue…,” “we didn’t comprehend…,” “we had no notion…,” “without ever grasping…,” “we didn’t follow…,” “we could not fathom…,” “we could not begin to comprehend…,” “Anne and I could not understand…,” “knowing as little as we did…” (all on pp. 380-383). In terms of the ethical contrasts that underpin Prochnik’s two books – humanism versus fanaticism, like Erasmus versus Luther, liberalism versus authoritarianism, like Zweig versus Hitler – it was only after having returned to the US that Prochnik recognized the adversary who had been at work all along without him paying attention: Benjamin Netanyahu. “Only long after Rabin was dead did I realize how Netanyahu had always been there, placing himself at exactly the right spot relative to the firestorm to whip up the flames without getting singed, always preserving plausible deniability for the worst excesses committed by the followers he goaded” (356-357). Netanyahu had been whipping up his right-wing supporters against the peace process from the beginning (355), and it is chilling to reach Prochnik’s description of those rallies:

A chorus of support arose from amid the crowd: “In blood and fire we will do away with Rabin!” Torches were hurled at the police monitoring the demonstration. Chants of “Bibi! Bibi!” alternated with choruses of “Nazi! Nazi!” as images of Rabin with his head at the center of a bull’s-eye framed with the word “Traitor!” in Hebrew and English were brandished aloft (356).

In this violent context of populist hate-mongering, it appears that some enemies of the peace process resorted to kabbalah, in a particularly cruel refutation of Scholem’s attempts (rightly criticized by Prochnik, with reference to the scholarship of Jonatan Meir, 252-258) to deny it any relevance to modern and contemporary society:

Leaflet "Song of Peace" with Rabin's blood on it
On the evening of Yom Kippur, right in front of Rabin’s official residence a few blocks from our apartment, a group of men stood in a circle draped in prayer shawls chanting softly. … [I]t later emerged that these men were uttering what they understood to be a kabbalistic curse, the Pulsa da-Nura, Lashes of Fire. At its climax, the leader raised his gaze to the prime minister’s residence and chanted, “I deliver to you, the angels of wrath and fire, Yitzhak, the son of Rosa Rabin, that you may smother him and the specter of him. … May you be damned, damned, damned!” The medieval legend surrounding this curse declares that its recipient will die within thirty days. And to the group’s satisfaction and awe, exactly thirty days later, Rabin was murdered.
Yigal Amir, Rabin’s assassin, performed mystical rites just before pulling the trigger. As Rabin stood above him on the stage singing “Song of Peace,” Amir waited in the darkness, practicing the esoteric art of Gematria … Concentrating on lines from Genesis … a passage that includes the line “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces” – Amir found that by sliding forward one letter from each word to join the following word, the words “a flaming torch passed between” transformed into “fire, fire, there is evil in Rabin.” And then Amir knew his bullet would strike home (357-358).

Rabin’s assassination killed the dream: “Our sense of magical solidarity with the Land and the people dissipated like smoke after an explosion” (378). George and Anne Prochnik packed their things, took their children, and fled the scene: “Clutching the children. Clutching each other, we were blown into the air forty thousand feet above the earth and cast through the sky to America” (409). Back home they discovered that the end of their dream of compassion meant the end of their marriage as well.

... and all that remains is hope

Prochnik’s two books have at least one obvious thing in common: they are all about broken dreams. Zweig’s Humanist dream of Europe was destroyed by Hitler – so cruelly and so completely that he saw no future and decided to kill himself, taking his wife with him. Scholem’s Zionist dream suffered shipwreck on the hard rocks of nationalist Realpolitik; the German culture that had nourished his very understanding of Judaism was reduced to smoking ruins; and his people were murdered on an industrial scale and with a maniacal determination that defies imagining. As for Prochnik’s mystical and messianic dream of Jewish community - grounded as much in his understanding of Scholem’s antinomian dialectics of kabbalah and modernity as in the liberal and humanitarian idealism represented by Zweig -, it was blown to pieces by Yigal Amir and transformed into a cruel nationalist Blut und Boden caricature by orthodox fanatics and right-wing politicians.

Stories of failure and the loss of illusions. So what is the point? Why bother reading about dreams that do not come true - while nightmares do? Are we to conclude simply that all these highminded ideals about a better world and all these aspirations towards a better future are bound to end in disappointment and despair, leaving the final word to violent hatred, bloodshed, fanaticism, cynism, nihilism, power, and domination? Was it all in vain? Of course Prochnik asks himself the same questions, and he ends by quoting a wonderful legend about the Baal Shem that was told by Scholem at the end of Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. Scholem in turn had heard it from the novelist S.J. Agnon, who might have found it in a Hasidic collection published in 1906. Its point is that even when all seems lost and gone forever – “when the sacred fire can no longer be lighted, the prayers can no longer be spoken, and the sacred place is no longer known” – in the end it is sufficient that the story can still be told. Perhaps this might explain why even stories that end badly, like those told by Prochnik, have the power - paradoxically - to inspire their readers rather than leaving them crushed and defeated. It is of vital importance that such tales be told, for they are all about hope, and hope remains alive as long as its memory remains alive - after all, whatever can be remembered in our personal or collective imagination can be imagined as real, and whatever can be imagined as real has not lost its potential of being realized. Sometime. Somewhere. Somehow.


  1. I like to entertain hopes that there are grounds for hope. Thanks for the extra push in that direction. Much needed!

  2. Thank you for this post. I thought you might be interested also to know about the publication of Scholem's intellectual biography (Chicago UP)

    More here: