New and Notable

Two new pieces in our collection:

Saul Gedaliah HarkavyVehu Sha’ul – DI Gelihene Hok. First Edition. Text in Hebrew and Yiddish. With supplement “Der Zeiger”—concerning the Rabbis of America who incessanty argue with each other. An anti-assimilationist polemic, written in the form of a running commentary to the Song of Songs by a Mir and Volozhin-educated immigrant to Nashua, NH. The author holds up absolutely no hope for a Jewish future in America—only in the Land of Israel can Judaism be certain. “Having dwelt in this land (of America) for a number of years and having seen the disgraceful behavior of my people…I can no longer restrain myself and must make public what weighs so heavily on my heart.

Saul Gedaliah HarkavyVehu Sha’ul – DI Gelihene Hok. First Edition. Text in Hebrew and Yiddish. With supplement “Der Zeiger”—concerning the Rabbis of America who incessanty argue with each other.
An anti-assimilationist polemic, written in the form of a running commentary to the Song of Songs by a Mir and Volozhin-educated immigrant to Nashua, NH. The author holds up absolutely no hope for a Jewish future in America—only in the Land of Israel can Judaism be certain. “Having dwelt in this land (of America) for a number of years and having seen the disgraceful behavior of my people…I can no longer restrain myself and must make public what weighs so heavily on my heart.

Isak Lechter. In Land Fun Rasen Diskriminatziya (On Racism in America) Yiddish. Warsawm Yiddish Buch Verlag, 1953.

Isak Lechter. In Land Fun Rasen Diskriminatziya (On Racism in America) Yiddish. Warsawm Yiddish Buch Verlag, 1953.

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The Arts of the Book Collection

One of the jewels on the Yale University Library is the Arts of the Book Collection.  It is housed in the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library and is dedicated to book making in all its facets.  It contains books that are beautifully-made, cutting edge, unusually-shaped. The books are created as works of art in themselves.

Each book expresses the views of its maker(s) not only in the meaning of the words, but in what is communicated by the form of the object.  Unexpected structures and materials, imagery, typography and other creative means allow artists to express their views.  Jae Jennifer Rossman, Assistant Director of Special Collections in the Arts Library, is head of this collection.

Avner Moriah The Scroll of Esther The Book of Esther is one of the five scrolls in the Hebrew Bible which are read in the synagogue in honor of a festival. Esther is read on the holiday of Purim. The book tells of the intrigues, corruption and dangers ever-present in the court of the Persian emperors in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C.E. As recounted in the text, only the Jewish queen Esther’s determination and courage as well as the resilience of her uncle Mordecai prevents the annihilation of the Jews of the Persian Empire. God’s name is never mentioned in the scroll though his presence is indirectly implied. The Book of Esther is the only biblical book not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Moriah’s illustrations capture the color, wealth and opulence of the Persian court. In its time, it was the largest and wealthiest empire the world had ever known. The scroll is open to the beginning scenes of the story when King Ahasuerus holds a huge banquet for his male courtiers while at the same time his soon to be deposed Queen Vashti holds a similar party for the ladies.

Avner Moriah
The Scroll of Esther
The Book of Esther is one of the five scrolls in the Hebrew Bible which are read in the synagogue in honor of a festival.
Moriah’s illustrations capture the color, wealth and opulence of the Persian court. In its time, it was the largest and wealthiest empire the world had ever known. The scroll is open to the beginning scenes of the story when King Ahasuerus holds a huge banquet for his male courtiers while at the same time his soon to be deposed Queen Vashti holds a similar party for the ladies.

There are many books related of Judaic interest in the Arts of the Book Collection.  Almost all of them were published in limited editions and are signed by the author and the graphic artist.  They are printed on special paper, may have specially designed type-faces, and are often hand bound.  Some are printed as portfolios and not bound at all.  The books bridge literature and the visual arts; one becomes an expression of the other.  Here are some examples of books relating to Judaica in the Arts of the Book Collection.

Lynne Avadenka Root Words: an Alphabetic Exploration The book is the result of a collaboration between Lynne Avadenka and Mohamed Zakariya. Avadenka's research was focused on the history of the Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew calligraphy, and the quotes from Jewish sources. Zakariya was responsible for the Islamic calligraphy, source material for the history of the Arabic language, and the quotes attributed to Islamic sources. The art work is by Avadenka.

Lynne Avadenka
Root Words: an Alphabetic Exploration
The book is the result of a collaboration between Lynne Avadenka and Mohamed Zakariya. Avadenka’s research was focused on the history of the Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew calligraphy, and the quotes from Jewish sources. Zakariya was responsible for the Islamic calligraphy, source material for the history of the Arabic language, and the quotes attributed to Islamic sources. The art work is by Avadenka.

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North African Workshop

In October of 2012, a group of scholars of North African Jewry came to Yale from Israel and France to study manuscripts from our North African Jewish Collection. Professor Moshe Bar-Asher of the Hebrew University was the convener of the gathering. Each scholar worked on a document relating to his or her area of expertise. At the end of each day, one of the scholars gave a lecture on some aspect of the history and culture of Jewish North Africa. It was a most exciting time for all of us in the library and we hope to hold more colloquia in the future. Thanks to a grant from the Arcadia Foundation, we have been able to organize and house the manuscripts and enter them into an Excel chart. Our next step will be to create a finding aid online which will enable scholars all over the world to ascertain what is in the collection.

The photo above shows all the participants as well as the library staff. The participants are each holding up the document on which he or she is working. Below, there are photos showing some of the scholars at work.

Professor Joseph Tedghi of INALCO (Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales), Paris and Professor Moshe Bar-Asher, Hebrew University, the convener of the gathering, studying a document from Fez, Morocco.

Professor Joseph Tedghi of INALCO (Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales), Paris and Professor Moshe Bar-Asher, Hebrew University, the convener of the gathering, studying a document from Fez, Morocco.

Professor Yaakov Bentolila of Ben Gurion University in Israel studying a document in Judeo-Arabic from Tetuan Morocco.

Professor Yaakov Bentolila of Ben Gurion University in Israel studying a document in Judeo-Arabic from Tetuan Morocco.

Professor Aomar Boum  of the University of Arizona studying a document in Arabic.

Professor Aomar Boum of the University of Arizona studying a document in Arabic.

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International Group of Scholars Gather to Study Yale Maghrebi Collection

During the week of April 21-28,2010, twelve scholars from Israel, the United States, France, and Morocco came together in the Judaic Studies Reading Room of the Sterling Memorial Library to study Yale’s collection of North African Jewish manuscripts. The collection, consisting of several thousand items purchased over the past ten years, includes books and documents dating from the 17th through mid-20th century. They are in Judeo-Arabic, Arabic, Hebrew, Haketia (North African Ladino), French, and Spanish, and come mainly from Morocco, but also from the other Maghrebi countries — Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The manuscripts vary from small scraps of paper to official documents, and from notebooks and registers in Sephardi cursive scripts to a folio-sized bound volume in beautiful calligraphic square script and multiple-colored inks. The last item is a magnificent exemplar of the 18thcentury
Constantine (Algeria) Mahzor for the use of the leader of the High Holy Day services. In addition to the standard Sephardi rite prayers, it contains piyyutim (liturgical poems) by Andalusian and Maghrebi poets for the embellishment of the services. The manuscripts come from most of the major centers of Jewish life, and some are autograph originals by important rabbinic figures such as Saul Abitbol (d. 1809) of Sefrou in Morocco, known as Rav Shisha, and author of the two-volume collection of responsa entitled Avne Shayish (Stones of Marble). What made the project unique was the team effort of the scholars. Leading the group was Professor Moshe Bar-Asher, the President of Israel’s Hebrew Language Academy and founder of the Center for the Study of Jewish Languages and Literatures at Hebrew University. The other members of the research team were: Rabbi Dr. Moshe Amar (Bar-Ilan University), Dr. Shalom Bar-Asher (Lifshitz College, Jerusalem), Professor Jacob Bentolila (Ben-Gurion University), Professor Joseph Chetrit (University of Haifa), Dr. Mohamed Elmedlaoui (Universite V Souissi Rabat, Morocco), Professor Efraim Hazan (Bar-Ilan University), Dr. Yehudit Henshke (Hebrew University), Professor Aharon Maman (Hebrew University), Dr. Simone Mrejen-O’hana (CNRS, Paris), Professor Norman Stillman (University of Oklahoma), and Dr. Ofra Tirosh-Becker (Hebrew University). For more information and photos of the speakers see http://v\r\vw.library.yale.edu/judaica/ site/conferences / northafricanjewry/about.php. The scholars worked morning till evening around a large seminar table in the Judaic Studies Reading
Room in the library. The project was conducted as a workshop. Each scholar was assigned a number of manuscripts to identify, describe, in some cases transcribe, translate, and annotate with the intention of bringing out a collective publication. Although all the participants were Judeo-Arabists and Hebraists with a background in Maghrebi studies, they also had different areas of expertise: history, linguistics, dialectology, poetry, rabbinics, liturgy, Judeo- Spanish, and Berber. Anyone encountering a problem could — and indeed did — turn to one or more colleagues sitting around the table for on-the-spot expert consultation. Thus, for example, Moshe Amar, a specialist in North African rabbinical texts might assist someone in deciphering the elaborate rabbinical signatures on responsa and court documents, and Jacob Bentolila, a leading expert on Haketia, could interpret Judeo-Spanish words and phrases inserted in Hebrew or Arabic texts. In addition to calling upon colleagues for assistance, the scholars also discussed their findings with one another. It was this cooperative academic effort and spirit of interchange that gave the workshop a unique dynamic that excited all the participants. Humanist textual scholars are used to working alone, often in solitude, and when they do seek advice from colleagues, it is usually via correspondence or at an occasional meeting. But here was instant access to fellow scholars with complementary expertise working on the same collection of material. In addition to the participants, Nanette Stahl, Curator of the Yale Judaic Studies Collection, and her staff were constantly on hand to provide all sorts of assistance ranging from specialized reference tools such as lexicons of rabbinic abbreviations to poetry thesauruses and responsa collections to high resolution photographs of some of the manuscripts. In tandem with the workshop in the library, the scholars took part in a day-long symposium, open to the public, entitled “Jews of the Maghreb: The History and Culture of North African Jewry” on April 25 in the Whitney Humanities Center. Each of the twelve participants delivered a lecture on some aspect of his or her current research. Their talks covered topics including music, poetry, tombstone inscriptions, the Hebrew component in Tunisian Judeo-Arabic, and the role of lineage and wealth in the Moroccan Jewish community. The symposium was organized by Moshe Bar-Asher, Nanette Stahl, and Steven Fraade, Chair of Yale’s Program in Judaic Studies. Another supplement to the workshop was a colloquium entitled “Jews in the Islamic World.” The event took place during the afternoon and evening of April 26 at the New York Public Library and was sponsored by its Dorot Jewish Division and the Yale Program in Judaic Studies. The colloquium marked the publication of the five volume Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World (Brill Academic Publishers), edited by Norman Stillman. The scholars, nearly all of whom contributed entries to the EJIW, were bused to New York City for the event. Professors Bar-Asher and Stillman gave presentations at the colloquium, and Professor Fraade chaired the afternoon session on “New Directions in the Study of Jews in the Islamic World.” All the participants finished the week of intensive study and interchange with the greatest enthusiasm and expressed their gratitude to Yale for having hosted such an original intellectual venture. They expressed the hope that there would be workshops of this kind in the future and look forward to the
publication that will result from the April gathering.

By Norman A. Stillman, Schusterman/Josey Professor of Judaic History, University of Oklahoma

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The ketubah Collection at Yale’s Beinecke Library

The Yale University Library has a large collection of illuminated ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts).  Below are some examples from our collection.

 Marriage contract, manuscript, ink and paint on paper, dated 3rd of Kislev 5649 (1888) at Yerushalem. Document has a scalloped top with two registers. The lower register contains the text of the ketubah and the upper register contains a vase and branches with flowers. The two registers are bordered by a design of blue leaves with red and yellow flowers.


Marriage contract, manuscript, ink and paint on paper, dated 3rd of Kislev 5649 (1888) at Yerushalem (Jerusalem). Document has a scalloped top with two registers. The lower register contains the text of the ketubah and the upper register contains a vase and branches with flowers. The two registers are bordered by a design of blue leaves with red and yellow flowers.

 Marriage contract, manuscript, ink and paint on paper, dated 9th of Nisan, 5665 (1905) at Dameśeḳ. The text is written within an arched gilded border in the bottom half of the document. Above it and on both sides are painted large vases with flowers and borders with floral designs. Beneath the text of the ketubah are the signatures of the two witnesses on either side and the groom's signature in the center.


Marriage contract, manuscript, ink and paint on paper, dated 9th of Nisan, 5665 (1905) at Dameśeḳ (Damascus, Syria). The text is written within an arched gilded border in the bottom half of the document. Above it and on both sides are painted large vases with flowers and borders with floral designs. Beneath the text of the ketubah are the signatures of the two witnesses on either side and the groom’s signature in the center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Marriage contract, manuscript, ink on vellum, dated 7 Tamuz 5549 at Saloniki, Greece. Surrounding the two columns of text are birds, flowers, fruit, columns, biblical sayings, Eshet Hayil, Shir ha-shirim. The right column contains the marriage terms and the left column contains the betrothal terms. Colors used are brown, with coral & dark grayish blue-green.


Marriage contract, manuscript, ink on vellum, dated 7 Tamuz 5549 at Saloniki, Greece. Surrounding the two columns of text are birds, flowers, fruit, columns, biblical sayings, Eshet Hayil, Shir ha-shirim. The right column contains the marriage terms and the left column contains the betrothal terms. Colors used are brown, with coral & dark grayish blue-green.

 Marriage contract, manuscript, ink and paint on paper, dated 12th of Nisan 5616 (1856) at Itsfahan. Brightly colored elaborate floral illumination surrounds the text. In the center above the text there is a large vase with two lions with a rising sun behind them on either side of the vase, and with two birds above. There is a floral arch on the top of the document and two smaller arches framing the text. The frame of the document contain blessings for the bride and the groom.


Marriage contract, manuscript, ink and paint on paper, dated 12th of Nisan 5616 (1856) at Itsfahan, Iran. Brightly colored elaborate floral illumination surrounds the text. In the center above the text there is a large vase with two lions with a rising sun behind them on either side of the vase, and with two birds above. There is a floral arch on the top of the document and two smaller arches framing the text. The frame of the document contain blessings for the bride and the groom.

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Bas Sheva by Moishe Broderzon

Among Yale Library’s extensive collection of sheet music is the Yiddish opera, Bas ShevaMus_miscms_530 The opera in Yale’s possession is in manuscript form. The lyrics are romanized, probably because musical notes can only be written from left to right, whereas Yiddish is read from right to left. The title page can be considered a work of art in itself, and in all probability Broderzon is the illustrator. Sometimes called Dovid and Bas-Sheva¸ this opera premiered in Warsaw’s prestigious Kaminski Theater on May 14, 1924. It is not known if it was ever performed again. Moishe Broderzon (1890-1956), the librettist, was born in Moscow but made his home in Lodz, Poland, where he did his most important artistic work. He was involved in just about every aspect of Yiddish culture and art. A poet and a playwright, he helped found a literary journal, a puppet theater, and a cabaret theater. He fled to Russia at the outbreak of World War II. Broderzon was arrested by the Soviet authorities in 1950 and died shortly after being released from a Stalinist labor camp. Henekh Kon (1998-1972) was a composer of musical theater and film. He is probably best known as the composer of the musical score for the Yiddish film The Dybbuk, based on S. Ansky;s play. Kon was a major figure in the Polish-Jewish cultural scene of the interwar period. He worked with Broderzon in founding the Chad Gadya marionette theater in Lodz (1922) and the Azazel (1925), Sambatyon (1926), and Ararat (1927) theaters in Warsaw. Kon left Poland before World War II and moved to New York. He thus survived the terrible fate that befell other Yiddish artists and intellectuals who were swept up in the Nazi inferno or the Stalinist persecutions. The Yale Library’s large collection of Yiddish and Hebrew sheet music is housed in the Gilmore Music Library.

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Rabbinic Emissary Collection

A group of manuscripts that we have assembled over a period of several years is the rabbinic emissaries collection.  In Hebrew they were referred to as shadarim, an acronym for shilluhe de-rabbanan.

Rabbinic emissary document from Tiberias to communities in Tunisia and Libya, 1922.   Large manuscript on parchment, dated 5682 [1922], intended as a letter of introduction in which the great sages of Tiberias authorize  Rabbi Yaʻaḳov Ṿaḳnin to collect funds for the needy of that city. The first five paragraphs each begin and end with the same word. The top of the document is scalloped with the center taking the form of an arch. The calligraphy is beautifully executed, indicating that the document was probably written by a professional scribe. The document bears the signatures and official stamps of over forty rabbis from the Maghrebi community in Tiberias. The letter is addressed to rabbis and leaders of the large centers of Jewish settlement in Tunisia and Libya. The great Talmudic sage Rabbi Meir, also known as Rabbi Meir Baal ha-Nes, whose tomb is in Tiberias, is referred to frequently to add more gravity to the request of the emissary and the rabbis who sent him.

Rabbinic emissary document from Tiberias to communities in Tunisia and Libya, 1922.
Large manuscript on parchment, dated 5682 [1922], intended as a letter of introduction in which the great sages of Tiberias authorize Rabbi Yaʻaḳov Ṿaḳnin to collect funds for the needy of that city.

  The Jewish community living in Palestine under Ottoman rule was both poor and pious.  Its members lived off the charity of Jewish Diaspora communities that sent funds to the Holy Land to support the Jews living there.  The rabbinic academies, old age homes, orphanages, and hospitals thus sent on an almost regular basis men to various parts of the world to raise money.  In order to prove that they were legitimate representatives of the institutions that sent them, these emissaries carried letters of introduction which they presented to the rabbis and notables of the Jewish communities to which they were sent.  The letters shed light on Jewish life in Palestine before the secular immigrants from Eastern Europe began arriving in large numbers.  Up until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Jewish community in the Holy Land was composed of Sephardic Jews (of Spanish origin) who had been there for several centuries, and the ultra-orthodox Jews who had come from Central and Eastern Europe (known as Ashkenazim) who had come  in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Both these communities, Ashkenazic and Sephardic, lived primarily in what were known as the four holy cities: Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberius, and Safed.  And both sent emissaries to members of their respective communities in the Diaspora for the purpose of collecting funds.  Many of the emissaries were important rabbis and Talmudic scholars and some even stayed on in the communities to which they were sent as rabbis and preachers.  The economic, social and religious inter-connectedness between Jews in Palestine and those in the Diaspora is a subject for exploration and study and Yale’s collection provides a rich resource for research in this area.   They can be found in Manuscripts and Archives at the Sterling Memorial Library.

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Song of Songs

This calligraphic masterpiece, 11-inch high piece of parchment that contains the entire biblical Song of Songs in Hebrew micrography (written in tiny letters).   It is signed by the Lithuanian artist/scribe, Baruch ben Shemaryah, 1794.  It renders the entire Song of Songs as a work of art, in letters that are at once text and illumination.  Shir (song) is the central word around which the text revolves.  The crown, labeled “crown of kingship” perhaps refers to the Song’s opening statement that its author is King Solomon.img0006

Religious authorities in both Judaism and Christianity made the Song’s prominence possible by interpreting it allegorically, as an expression of God’s love.  The document’s chronogram—Hebrew words whose numerical value indicates the date—uses ahavat olam: eternal love.  It may refer to a prayer about God’s love for Israel which begins with these words; or it may mean that the document was created in honor of a marriage.  For, in everyday usage and in its plain meaning, the Song of Songs is about spring, youth, love, and yearning.

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Yale’s Collection of European Jewish Community Registers

In addition to the collection of Judaica books in the library, we have been collecting manuscripts of various kinds that are of interest to scholars.  These different genres of materials enhance the Judaica Collection by providing library patrons with materials that are unique to Yale.  Since the library’s holdings are cataloged online, knowledge of these items is accessible to scholars all over the world.

The largest of our manuscript collections are the Jewish community registers from Europe.  These registers, known in Hebrew as pinkase kehilah, were produced by synagogue congregations, study societies, charitable societies and burial societies (the hevra kadisha).  The pinkasim (pl.) in Yale’s collection originate primarily in Eastern and Central Europe (mostly Hungary and Romania).  The contents consist of proceedings of meetings, regulations and by-laws, records of monetary contributions, and the recording of births and deaths.  The title page of many of them are elaborately written and decorated.  They are an excellent primary resource for the study of the economic, social and religious life of Jewish communities in Eastern and Central Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  They originated in the large centers of Jewish life but also in small out-of-way communities.  They thus shed light on Jewish life in geographic locations where there is precious little other information available.  There are pinkasim in the collection that contain records that go up to the early 1940s, the point at which these communities were destroyed by the Nazis.

The community register collection serves as a complement to Yale’s large collection of yizkor books, memorials to the destroyed Jewish communities of Europe during the Sho’ah.  These are works that were by-and-large compiled by survivors of those towns.  Those that remained alive at the end of the war attempted to evoke the towns of their birth in earlier times when those towns were still vibrant and active.  In addition to the many essays concerning the village, town, or city found in these books, the compilers also included photos of members of the various Zionist groups, sports clubs, school graduations, family outings, socialist or Bundist gatherings, and other events in the life of their community. The yizkor books celebrate the life of European Jewish communities that were brutally destroyed; the community register collection serve to shed further light on many of those communities.  A list of most of Yale’s holdings can be found at:  http://www.library.yale.edu/judaica/site/collection/yizkorbooks.php

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Recent acquisition: Shiviti plaque- Herat, Afghanistan, early 20th century?

shivitiheratShiviti plaque : Herat, Afghanistan, early 20th century?
Such plaques were hung in the synagogue to inspire more devout prayer.
Physical Description: 1 item ([1] leaf) ; approximately 60 x 48 cm  In Hebrew.
Summary:  Manuscript, ink and paint? on paper. God’s name is written in large letters at the top of the document and two turquoise fish appear among the letters.  They may be there as symbols of fertility.  Throughout the Shiviti are words with that have magic and folk kabbalistic significance. The shiviti includes five seven-branched candelabra formed from calligraphic texts of psalms.  In between the bases of the candelabra are four six-pointed stars formed by Hebrew letters that seem to have magical meanings. The text on the outer border quotes Jacob’s blessing of Joseph in the Book of Genesis.  There is some damage to the text at the bottom.  The plaque is dedicated to the memory of Netanel bar Mosheh, but the identity of the scribe is unknown since only his initials are given.

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