1918 – 1982
Eva (Chawa) Schocken was born near the end of World War I on September 29, 1918, in the small city of Zwickau, Germany. Her father was Salman Schocken, a businessman who, with his brother, had built up a chain of department stores across Germany. Her mother was Lili Schocken.
Salman was a leader in the Zionist movement and was deeply involved in Jewish culture and intellectual history. In the late 1920s, when the German branch of Zionist publishing failed, Salman took it over, calling it Schocken Books. In 1934, after the Nazis decreed that Aryan publishers would not be allowed to publish Jewish writers, he added to his stable of authors such noted Jewish intellectuals as Franz Kafka and Martin Buber.
The family left Germany at the end of 1933 and immigrated to Jerusalem. Around the time the family had to leave Germany, Eva was sent to a boarding school in England. Later, she joined her family in Palestine. In Jerusalem, her mother took a dislike to a boy her daughter was seeing and presented Eva with a steamship ticket to join her brother in the United States.
In the late 1930s, Eva Schocken arrived in New York City, where she attended college at the Bank Street School. In 1941 she married Theodore Herzl Rome, and later had four children. She eventually completed her bachelor’s degree at Bank Street and went on to get a master’s degree from Columbia University in early childhood education and remedial reading. When her father brought Schocken Books to New York in 1946, she became involved as an education consultant. When Salman died in 1960, Eva’s husband Herzl took over as president of Schocken Books. Eva became an editor.
This was the period during which Eva Schocken did her most influential work. She expanded Schocken’s scope to include books in her own areas of interest, education and women’s studies. She reissued a series of works by Maria Montessori, who had been nearly forgotten in the United States by the 1960s. She kept Schocken Books in the forefront of the educational revolution of the 1960s with works by Herbert Kohl and books on the “open classroom” concept.
Eva Schocken also spearheaded the first women’s studies series in books, including both reissues and original works. Her consulting editor was Gerda Lerner, a scholar and historian of the women’s movement. The reprints included suffragists and feminists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. One of the new books in the series—Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey, by Lillian Schlissel—was a minor best-seller.
After Herzl died in 1965, Eva’s brother Theodore Schocken became president of Schocken Books. In 1968, Eva married Julius Glaser, who later became chair of the company. When her brother died in 1975, Eva became president and led the firm until her death.
Although Eva Schocken seemed to prefer the role of editor, Schocken Books reached its peak under her leadership as president. It was during this period that she brought out what was to be Schocken’s foremost best-seller When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. She also imported from England a children’s book, Masquerade, which became an American best-seller. She died on January 12, 1982, at age sixty-four.
Obituary. NYTimes, January 13, 1982; Rome, David. Interview by author, May 2, 1997.