In September 1923, two studious young German Jews traveled from Frankfurt and Berlin to Trieste where they took ship for Jerusalem. They were emigrating and leaving their homeland forever. Their names were Shlomo Dov Goitein, known to his friends as “Fritz,” and Gershom Scholem, by three years the elder. Side by side from the rail of their ship they saw the coast of the Promised Land for the first time. Both knew Hebrew well but it was a bookish Hebrew; so too their image of the holy city of Jerusalem which had been formed less by exact report than by millennia of longing. Fifty-four years later, Scholem, by then world-famous as the leading authority on Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, wrote in his 1977 autobiography Von Berlin nach Jerusalem about this youthful voyage. In passing he would remark that he went there with the “born schoolmaster”—“Schulmeister” was his word—Fritz Goitein. This is what he wrote...


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