Benjamin-Scholem Reading Group



“The relationship between Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem is surely one of the extraordinary friendships of the twentieth century” (Robert Alter, New Republic). Yet the letters they exchanged between the years of 1932 and 1940 chronicle a difficult period in a relationship that, in Anson Rabinbach’s words, “had reached its ‘zenith’ many years before.” By the time the letters begin, a few months before Hitler’s rise to power, Scholem had already emigrated to Palestine (in 1923) and Benjamin had already opted for Marxism, leading to a number of tensions and frustrations between the two intellectuals. The correspondence, tragically interrupted by Benjamin’s suicide on the Spanish border on September 26, 1940, provides us with an extended discussion of the fate of the Jewish and German intellectual tradition on the eve of catastrophe.

The reading group will culminate in a guest lecture by Professor Michael Jennings (of Princeton University) on October 17th. The lecture will take place in the ground floor event space of NYU’s English Department at 244 Greene St.

Dates and times:

Thursday September 22nd, 6.30pm. 244 Greene St., 8th floor. (Seminar 1)

Thursday September 29th, 6.30pm. 244 Greene St., 8th floor. (Seminar 2)

Thursday October 6th, 6.30pm. 244 Greene St., 8th floor. (Seminar 3)

Thursday October 13th, 6.30pm. 244 Greene St., 8th floor. (Seminar 4)

Monday October 17th, 6.30pm. 244 Greene St., 2nd floor. (Guest lecture)

If you would like a .pdf of the reading, please email


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