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Cover of: A Forgotten Polemic between Levinas and Scholem, 1947-1961
Niv Perelsztejn

A Forgotten Polemic between Levinas and Scholem, 1947-1961

Section: Articles
Volume 31 (2024) / Issue 2, pp. 187-211 (25)
Published 06.05.2024
DOI 10.1628/jsq-2024-0010
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This study aims to reveal a forgotten polemic between the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) and the historian of Kabbalah Gershom Scholem (1897-1982). While this years-long polemic culminated in the 1960s in a well-developed criticism by Levinas of Scholem's study of Jewish messianism, it began with a newly discovered encounter that took place years earlier. That tense encounter gives us an opportunity to rethink the connection between Levinas and Scholem and to reconstruct the polemic between them. This study traces the development of their polemic backward from the early 1960s, through the 1950s, to its post- Holocaust roots in France and in Israel-Palestine. On the surface the polemic circles around some issues of methodological disagreement. But in reality, it reveals some essential differences not only between these two Jewish intellectuals, but between two major trends in Jewish thought in the 20th century.