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"Monumental, absorbing . . . David displays authority in research, honest grace in literary tone, and analytic brilliance." -The Forward
The name Schocken-now primarily associated with the prestigious publishing house-was once emblazoned over a vast commercial empire; across Europe, it stood for quality consumer goods and uplifting culture made available for all.
In a sweeping, colorful saga, historian Anthony David tells the fascinating story of Salman Shocken, Jewish philanthropic titan and founder of a large department-store chain. The Patron follows Schocken's transformation from an impoverished migrant salesman to a captain of German industry. Once he became a merchandizing millionaire, Shocken harnessed his fortune to a vision: to disseminate Jewish secular culture to the masses through publishing houses, newspapers, and support of such influential modern thinkers such as Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem. But as the Nazi regime closed in on Schocken's enterprise, the resilient tycoon transferred his energies to Palestine and New York.
The Patron fills in a missing piece of twentieth-century history: the life of a self-made man who, with courage and tenacity, helped fashion a people's national and cultural renaissance.
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Anthony David is the editor and translator of Gershom Scholem: A Life in Letters. An award-winning historian, he has received the Fritz Haber Prize and a Mellon Foundation fellowship.
He lives in New Mexico.
Salman Schocken (18771959) led an extraordinary life. An East European Jew by birth, he flourished as a businessman and cultural entrepreneur in Germany, Palestine and Israel, and the United States. His great marketing insight was that common people desired quality goods, so long as they were affordable. Before WWI and into the 1920s, he turned a small retail shop into a modern department store chain, following the most efficient business principles and commissioning the great modernist architect Erich Mendelssohn to design his flagship store. But Schocken's true loves were books and Jewish and German culture. He amassed a library of treasures, including medieval Jewish manuscripts and first editions of Goethe and others. A modern Medici, Schocken supported with stipends and advice (not always desired) many of the great Jewish cultural figures of the first half of the 20th century, including S.Y. Agnon, Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem. Like so many German Jews, his belief in German rectitude and culture blinded him to the seriousness of the Nazi threat, and only very late and with a great deal of good fortune was he able to move his family and some of his wealth to Palestine. His greatest legacies were the establishment of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in which he played a key role, and Schocken Books, which remains to this day an important imprint. This biography by David, editor and translator of Gershom Scholem's letters, is serious and illuminating, but the writing can barely keep pace with the colorful character that was Salman Schocken.
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