Cain. A series of lithographs on the early biblical stories in the Book of Genesis by Avigdor Arikha, 1955. The images are accompanied by the biblical text and rabbinical commentaries translated into French.

The portfolio is comprised of a pen drawing and 8 lithographs, 31X29.5 cm. The colophon is signed and numbered 39 from an edition of 110. Published by imprimerie-Edition des Poets, Paris.

The Cover Drawing:
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Below are photos of 2 of the 8 lithographs:
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God prefers Abel’s sacrifice of a lamb to Caine’s sacrifice of grain.

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Cain is punished by God for killing his brother Abel by becoming an exile, doomed to roam over the earth.

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New items in the collection: Last Will and Testament: Novohardak, Belarus, 1844

title page of last will and testament
second page of last will and testament

Manuscript in Hebrew and Yiddish. In this will Avraham Shklifer, evidently a wealthy merchant without children, leaves instructions for the distribution of his estate including bequests to talmudic academies, book publishers, hospitals, and other Jewish communal institutions. The document mentions several important leaders of the community of Novogrudok, Belarus and Vilna.

This quite lengthy will is mostly in Hebrew and not in Yiddish, the spoken language of the Jewish population of the region. It has a red wax seal at the conclusion. The graphic illustrations on the first two pages are also unusual. The two angels on the second page seem to have an Italian influence. The document is in its original binding. The stamp of one of the previous owners, Hayyim bar Reuven Lieberman, appears on several of the pages.

Since we mostly know more about the poor Jews who lived in Eastern Europe, it is quite a novelty to learn about the holdings, property, and way of life of a very wealthy one.

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New items in the collection: Shiviti plaques from Morocco and Italy

Shiviti plaque : [Italy?], [twentieth century?]

moroccan-shiviti
This type of plaque was usually hung in a synagogue and was meant to exhort the congregation to more devout prayer.

Manuscript, ink and paint on paper. The document is illuminated with colorful biblical scenes and incudes the traditional Shiviti statement “I have set the Lord always before me” (Psalm 16:8) and Psalm 67 written in the design of the seven-branched candelabrum. The biblical scenes on the bottom depict the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis) and Samson’s struggle with the lion (Judges). On the top are three images: one is David slaying Goliath (Samuel I), in the center are the priests carrying the Holy Ark, and the third is a depiction of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In the center of the plaque above the two smaller candelabra are depictions of Moses holding the Ten Commandments and Aaron, the High Priest, holding an incense burner. There are biblical scenes on either side of the plaques as well. At the bottom of the document in the center is a statement that the scribe is Amram Asiag bar Masud but no date is given.

Shiviti plaque : [Italy?], [twentieth century?]

italian-shivit
Manuscript, ink and paint on paper. The entire text is calligraphed in colorful, decorative micrography. The traditional Shiviti statement “I have set the Lord always before me” (Psalm 16:8) appears in large bold letters on the upper register. Two fish appear in the below God’s name and at the bottom of the plaque; they represent fertility. The text on the document written in Hebrew block letters consists of biblical and liturgical passages that deal with blessing and God’s beneficence. The calligraphy is an integral part of the design of the document. There is a floral border along the outer edge that is beautifully executed and whose color scheme blends in with the art and calligraphy of the plaque. The shiviti is unusual in that it does not contain the seven branch candelabra in calligraphic form that is at the center of most shiviti plaques. The manuscript appears to be Italian because manuscripts from Italy are written in block letters similar to those that appear in this one.

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Professor Moshe Bar-Asher: Moroccan Style Sermon Demonstration

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Click here to view a video in which Professor Bar-Asher demonstrates how a sermon is chanted among Moroccan Jews.

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Discussion with Professor Moshe Bar-Asher

bar-asherClick here to view a discussion with Professor Moshe Bar-Asher about our North African Manuscript Collection.

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Discussion with Visiting Professor Michael Silber (Academic Year 2013-14)

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Click here to view a discussion with visiting Professor Michael Silber about his work at the Central Archives of the Jewish People which is now part of the National Library of Israel.

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North African Jewish Life

The photographic essays below are meant to enhance the North African Jewish Manuscript Collection at the Yale University Library.  We recently purchased a collection of postcards recording Jewish life in Morocco in the early 20th century.  This period overlaps with that of a large majority of manuscripts in Yale’s collection.  The postcards thus present a graphic image of the society from which the documents emerge.  They present cityscapes, rabbinic  figures, commercial life, women in the various modes of attire and more.  We have chosen to present two subjects that stand out in the collection:  depictions of women and depictions of the market place and commercial life.

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Photo essay of Jewish women of North Africa at the beginning of the 20th century.  Almost all of the women are from Morocco.  The images are taken from a recently acquired collection of picture postcards of Jewish life in Morocco.  Most of the photographs appear to have been posed portraits. Please find a selection of photographs from the collection here: North African Women (Powerpoint) North African Women (PDF)

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The Jews depicted in this set of postcards made their living primarily as merchants and craftsmen.  They either did business on the street or in small store fronts in the market places of the cities and villages in which they lived.  The men who appear in the photos seem to have made a meager living which allowed them to barely get by. Those women who worked outside the home, were laundresses which kept them out of the marketplace and thus out of sight of strange men. Find the collection here: North African Professions (PDF), North African Professions (PowerPoint)

 

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ALL THIS HAS COME UPON US

Title of a portfolio by the artist Mark Podwal.

42 archival pigment prints of acrylic, gouache and colored pencil works on paper exhibited at the Terezin Ghetto Museum from April to July 2014. Includes folio with the titles, Hebrew psalms and descriptions of the all the artworks.  Prints housed in an archival clamshell case imprinted with “ALL THIS HAS COME UPON US…” and the artist’s name. Edition limited to 60 numbered copies signed by the artist

According to the artist’s statement in the catalog accompanying the exhibit, “the paintings and drawings in this series are a disturbing reminder of how Europe’s extensive history of ‘Jew-hatred’ laid the groundwork for Terezin and Auschwitz.” Each image, depicting a tragedy or injustice in Jewish history from slavery in Egypt through the Holocaust is paired with a verse from Psalms. “The menorah in the first image, carried away by goose stepping Germans, appears again in the last image with the seven biblical fruits sprouting from its branches. A verse from Psalm 126, the psalm almost chosen as Israel’s national anthem, proclaims, ‘Those who plant with tears will harvest in joy.’ ”

See a selection from prints of Podwal’s work below:

Pslam 94:3-- "How long will the wicked triumph?" "Rabbinic sages say in the human heart are two impulses, good and evil. The wicked, influenced by the evil impulse, destroyed the Temple and exiled the Jews from their land. Against the evil impulse, the Torah is the great antidote."

Psalm 94:3– “How long will the wicked triumph?”
“Rabbinic sages say in the human heart are two impulses, good and evil. The wicked, influenced by the evil impulse, destroyed the Temple and exiled the Jews from their land. Against the evil impulse, the Torah is the great antidote.”

Pslam 60:6--"You give your loyal followers a banner around which to rally." "Every year, when the annual reading of the Torah concludes and begins anew the congregation says in Hebrews, 'Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek' meaning 'Be strong, be strong, and may we strengthen one another."

Psalm 60:6–”You give your loyal followers a banner around which to rally.”
“Every year, when the annual reading of the Torah concludes and begins anew the congregation says in Hebrew, ‘Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek’ meaning ‘Be strong, be strong, and may we strengthen one another.”

 

Psalm 122:6-- "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may those you love You be at peace." "Though Jerusalem is called 'City of Peace,' no place has been fought over more."

Psalm 122:6– “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may those you love You be at peace.”
“Though Jerusalem is called ‘City of Peace,’ no place has been fought over more.”

Psalm 13:3-- "How long will I have troubling thoughts, sorrow in my heart every day? How long shall my enemy dominate me?" "In both Christian and Muslim countries, it was common for laws to mandate that synagogues could not be taller than churches or mosques."

Psalm 13:3– “How long will I have troubling thoughts, sorrow in my heart every day? How long shall my enemy dominate me?”
“In both Christian and Muslim countries, it was common for laws to mandate that synagogues could not be taller than churches or mosques.”

 

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New Acquisitions

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Yiddish Yomtoyvim,  by Mikhailovich, Nikolai
History and development of the Jewish festivals.
Minsk, Mlukhe farlag, 1925.  Translated into Yiddish from a manuscript  by H. Maysel and  Uri Finkel.    The cover illustration in a modernistic style by Meyer Akselrod is quite beautiful and evokes the festival celebrations in ancient times.

 

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ORT Newsletters
ORT, an association for the promotion of skilled trades, is a non-profit global Jewish organization that promotes education and training in over 100 countries.  After the end of World War II, ORT established rehabilitation programs for the survivors. The first one in Germany was started in August 1945 in the Landsberg DP camp. Vocational training centers were set up in 78 DP (Displaced Persons) Camps in Germany, and nearly 85,000 people acquired professions and the tools they would need to rebuild their lives. Jacob Olejski, a Dachau survivor who had previously organized ORT in Lithuania, was the driving force behind ORT’s revival. BookScanCenter_3

Images from the newsletters published by ORT showing the rehabilitation work done by ORT among the survivors of World War II in Germany preparing them for their eventual immigration to Israel.  Most the newsletters we purchased are from 1948.BookScanCenter_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foyglen (Birds) by Leib Kvitko and illustrated by Issachar Rybak.  Berlin: Shveln, 193-? 15 leaves.
Rybak’s illustrations in color and black and white are quite stunning.  Unfortunately, the book was printed of highly acidic paper and the pages are in very bad shape.  The book will need to be digitized.

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Yiddish Sheet Music from the early 20th century
We recently purchased a collection of Yiddish sheet music.  Many of the songs are from the Yiddish stage which flourished on the Lower East Side in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Below are two examples of the elaborate covers of the scores.  The Hebrew Publishing Company appears to have been the primary publisher.

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Kolnik, Arthur, 1890-1971
Portfolio of 12 woodcuts by Kolnik.  Paris, Kunstler-gemeinschaft, 1933.  Signed by the artist and numbered.  The 12 woodcuts consist of illustrations of scenes from Yiddish literary works.  Included is an original woodcut of the Yiddish actor, Herz Grosbard, 1892-1994.

First image—Character from a work by M. L. Halpern

Second image—Image of the Yiddish actor Herz Grosbard (1892-1994)

 

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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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