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Between New York & Jerusalem

(Original article at the Jewish Review of Books.)

"Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem, two of the most gifted, influential, and opinionated Jewish intellectuals of the 20th century, maintained an extraordinary correspondence from 1939 until 1964. Many readers will be aware of the gladiatorial exchange between these two giants during the early 1960s occasioned by Arendt's (in)famous "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil". As a result, Scholem and Arendt have been typically regarded as intellectual foes, formidable ideological enemies. Those who only know of their later animosity will be considerably surprised by Scholem's enthusiastic 1941 description of Arendt (to his New York friend, Shalom Spiegel) as "a wonderful woman and an extraordinary Zionist." Now that their full correspondence has finally been published, in an edition meticulously assembled, annotated, and explicated by Marie Luise Knott, we can begin to understand the contours and dynamics of a relationship that was always complex. These letters illuminate the historical record by placing into context and documenting not only the profound differences between these powerful personalities but also their commonalities, shared activities, interests, and loyalties. (One hopes that English and Hebrew translations of this correspondence are forthcoming...)"

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