Reading Scholem in Constellation

(2020 – 2021)

Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) was a German-Jewish historian, philosopher, and philologist best known for establishing the study of Kabbalah as an academic discipline. Although he is a major figure in Jewish thought and has experienced renewed popularity, Scholem is still mainly read in the contexts of Jewish Studies, theology and literature. 

The Reading Scholem in Constellation (RSIC) reading group took place from October to November 2020 at Hopscotch Reading Room, Berlin. It sought to place Scholem’s early writings on lament in dialogue with other cultural contexts, histories, crises, and tensions. It was an attempt to imagine Scholem in new contexts, springing from unexpected and contingent encounters with writings from Sara Ahmed, Fred Moten and Jalal Toufic. Resulting conversations departed from Scholem’s abstract yet evocative idea of lament and traced the edges of a year of sickness, death, racial violence, social and emotional isolation, revolt and exhaustion. The group and its conversations are still ongoing and our collective dialogue activates questions such as: can Scholem’s thoughts resonate in the present through critical re-reading? Can lament cry out against linear, teleological ideas often positioned as universal, such as language, mourning, or healing? Can the practice of mourning actively change that which is mourned?* 

RSIC was discussed in the 2020 article, “A Revolution of Silence”, written for Protocols magazine.

Responses to RSIC were published in 2021 in an edited volume, Reading Scholem in Constellation (printed by Colorama Studio, Berlin). The publication is available online and in print at Hopscotch Reading Room, Berlin, and San Serriffe, Amsterdam. It charts interdisciplinary responses from group participants, including poetry, essays, translations, and artistic projects.

RSIC was made possible by a generous grant from the Paideia Microgrant program, part of Paideia: The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden.

*Description taken from “A Revolution of Silence”, Rachel Pafe, Protocols 2020.