Born to an assimilated Jewish family in Berlin, Gershon Scholem joined the Zionist movement as a student. He proceeded to devote himself to a thorough understanding of Jewish history, religion and culture, acquiring a knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish sources. He was a friend of Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Shmuel Yosef Agnon and Zalman Shazar, all of whom represented traditional Jewish culture in Eastern Europe and were in Germany during World War I.
Originally a student of mathematics and philosophy, he transferred to oriental languages in the early 1920s. His doctoral thesis was a translation and commentary on an obscure kabbalistic text: this and other studies led to the Kabbalah becoming an established academic discipline.
Scholem joined the staff of the Hebrew University in 1923, as a librarian (1923-1927), becoming a lecturer (from 1925), and a professor of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah (1933-1965). He wrote a number of texts on Kabbalah and mysticism: his studies, essays and speeches, which have been collected On Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, 1965), have had a major impact on the knowledge of Jewish mysticism by non-Jews.
His scholarship is marked by painstaking analysis, deep philosophical insight and profound historical understanding. He was awarded the Israel Prize in 1958. In 1962 he was elected vice-President, and in 1968, President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Sources: The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente