Racheli Edelman, a leading Hebrew publisher in her own right, is a scion of two of Israel’s most distinguished book and newspaper publishing families—Schocken and Persitz.
Racheli Schocken was born in Tel Aviv on November 30, 1942. She was the daughter of Gershom Gustav Schocken (1912–1990), founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Haaretz, the country’s most respected daily newspaper, who immigrated to Palestine in 1933. His father, Salman Schocken (1877–1959), had founded a chain of prosperous department stores in Germany as well as Schocken Verlag, a Jewish publishing house, in Berlin in 1931. He came to Palestine from Berlin in 1934 and later established the eponymous publishing houses of Schocken in Tel Aviv (for Hebrew books) and in New York (for English books). Salman’s daughter and Racheli’s aunt, Chava (Eva) Schocken, became deeply involved as an editor in Schocken New York and served as its president from 1975 until her death in 1982.
Edelman’s mother was Shulamit Persitz (1916–1998), who was born in Moscow and came to Israel in 1925 with her mother, Shoshanah Persitz, another major figure in European Jewish publishing and in the publishing industry of pre-state Israel. Shoshanah and her husband, who had founded the Omanut Publishing House in Moscow in 1916, in 1925 immigrated to Palestine, where she subsequently became a member of the Knesset. Edelman recalls complaining to her grandmother as a young teenager that the Hebrew in Omanut books was stilted and old-fashioned and needed to be re-edited. This initiative gave new life to the books subsequently published by Omanut.
Edelman has two brothers, Amos Schocken (b. 1944), the current publisher of Haaretz and Hillel Schocken (b. 1947), a well-known architect. In 1967 she married Jehuda Edelman, a systems analyst who died in 1996. They have three daughters, Yael (b. 1972), Ayelet (b. 1974) and Ofra (b. 1978). She has a B.A. in economics and English literature and an M.A. in business administration from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Before joining the family publishing house, she served as a lieutenant in the IDF and in 1964 was seconded by the army to head a junior commanders course in Malawi, Southern Africa. On her return, she worked for several years at the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the State Comptroller in Jerusalem.
Edelman joined the staff of Schocken in 1969 and has been president of the house since 1972, following the death of its first director Yosef Hermann, who had come to Palestine together with the stocks of Schocken Verlag in 1937. Under Edelman’s direction, Schocken has retained its place as one of the leading publishers in the country and numbers among its local authors Yehuda Amichai, Mahmoud Darwish, Pinhas Sadeh, Meir Shalev, Shabbetai Tevet, Amnon Rubinstein, Amia Leiblich, A. B. Yehoshua; and among its foreign authors: Franz Kafka, D. H. Lawrence, Margaret Drabble, Nadine Gordimer, Knut Hamsun, Herman Hesse, Ted Hughes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip Roth, Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn, Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf, George Steiner and many others. Paramount among Schocken authors is Shmuel Yosef Agnon, in 1966 winner of Israel’s only Nobel Prize for Literature, who had been under the patronage and support of Salman Schocken from the beginning of his career.
Schocken publishes some fifty new titles a year, half of which are belles lettres and half non-fiction. In 1978 Edelman introduced quality children’s books to the list and some ten new books, especially for pre-school children, are published each year. In 1997, Schocken acquired the rights to the thirty-eight–volume Encyclopaedia Hebraica, founded by Massadah Publishers in 1946 (see Bracha Peli), the final volume of which was published in 1996. Schocken is now involved in updating and re-editing this monumental work.
Edelman was chair of the Israel Book Publishers Association from 1982 to 1993; she was a member of the board of the American-Israel Paper Mills, Haderah; and has represented Israel at the International Publishers’ Association and at IFFRO, the International Copyright Association.