Between the Lines: Vol. 12, No. 2 (Fall 1999)


Treasures from The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary

The Friends of The Library publishes an exclusive array of books, exhibition catalogs, posters, calendars and notecards featuring images from library holdings. Included in a recently-published brochure are five new products which broaden the range of the library's merchandise offerings.

The Illuminated Manuscript Writing Paper is a museum-quality stationery set, decorated with a border from the Rothschild Mahzor. The Personal Journal features on its cover the highly-acclaimed nineteenth-century French Jewish actress, Rachel, from the library's recent Visions of Glory portrait exhibit.

The library's Mazal Tov Guest Book serves as a memorable record of joyous moments of the life cycle. The cover image is from an Italian illuminated manuscript dating to 1700. Order one for a wedding, bar or bat mitzvah, or any other celebration. Two sets of matching "Mazal Tov" and "Thank You" notelets are also available.

To view the library's complete inventory of items for sale, please visit our website, Library Shop. You may order online with a credit card, or call 212-678-8962 or fax to 212-678-8891.


Friends Support Purchase of Manuscripts

The Friends of The Library provided funds for the purchase of two manuscripts at the recent Christie's auction of items from The Library of the London Bet Din: the Sefer ha-Haruzim by Solomon da Poggibonsi (Italy, early-mid sixteenth century) and an eighteenth-century copy of a kabbalistic work, Sefer ha-Temunah.

The manuscript of Sefer ha-Haruzim is especially noteworthy, since it is an autograph ( written in the author's own hand). The work, a Hebrew rhyme dictionary, is an expansion of the earlier 'Aremat Hitim by Judah da Porta.


News from the Music Archives: Wohlberg and Rosenbaum Collections

Two music collections, the Max Wohlberg and the Samuel Rosenbaum Collections, have recently been cataloged by the library's music archivist, Eliott Kahn, and are available for study. An Inventory of the Max Wohlberg Collection is currently going to press and will be available for sale in December 1999.

Born in Hungary in 1907, Max Wohlberg was one of the founders of the Cantors Assembly and Cantors Institute. Wohlberg spent a lifetime researching and collecting synagogue melodies and was a beloved instructor of nusah at the Miller Cantorial School until his death in 1996. Particularly noteworthy in the Wohlberg collection are the "Synagogue music collections." These are the generic titles given to the thirty-eight cantor's books of bound manuscripts from Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, and the United States, dating from ca. 1892-1945. These books, each containing much unpublished music, have been listed in the library's online catalog, so that each individual piece may be searched by its composer, title or religious function.

Of additional interest to researchers are Wohlberg's own synagogue compositions, his many notations of nusah (synagogue melodies), teaching materials, research files, correspondence and tape recordings of his extensive cantorial record collection.

Work on cataloging the papers of Cantor Samuel Rosenbaum (1919-1997) has also been recently completed. An inventory of this collection is projected for publication early next year. Sam Rosenbaum was Executive Vice-President of the Cantors' Assembly from 1959 until 1997.

Highlights of the Rosenbaum collection include manuscript scores by early twentieth-century synagogue composers Zavel Zilberts and Jacob Beimel, as well as Yiddish theater composers Sholom Secunda and Abraham Ellstein. There are also the scores and libretti of all of Rosenbaum's Jewish oratorios; his numerous Yiddish poetry translations; his essays and presentations on Judaica topics; and his collection of audiotaped, videotaped, and written records of Cantors' Assembly concerts, conventions and meetings.


Exhibitions at The Library

This winter the library will mount a major three-tiered exhibition, From This World to the Next: Jewish Approaches to Illness, Death and the Afterlife. This exhibition will explore the communal attitudes toward illness and the hour of death as well as the historical and communal roles of the hevra kaddisha, the Jewish burial society. The customs and rituals of burial, mourning and remembrance will be examined through a panoply of historically significant manuscripts, rare printed books and engravings that document the ways various Jewish communities have de alt with all aspects of death, from illness to yahrzeit. This exhibition will allow a glimpse into a rarely seen segment of the library's outstanding collection of rare social-historical material.

A catalog of this exhibition, published and funded by the Friends of The Library , will be available for purchase in December, by calling (212) 678-8962, or by ordering online at Library Shop.

The exhibition will be on display on the first, second and fifth floors of the library building from December 12, 1999 through April 12, 2000. Exhibition hours are Monday - Thursday 9:00am - 6:00pm, Friday 9:00am - 2:00pm, Sunday 10:00am - 5:00pm. Groups wishing to visit the exhibition may arrange for an introductory lecture; for more information please call (212) 678-8849.

Currently on display on the first floor of the library is a revival of the popular exhibition From Eve to Esther: Images of Women in Biblical Prints. The exhibition includes Dutch, French, German and Italian prints from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, drawn from the library's rare print collection. The range of the images demonstrates various attitudes toward biblical women, who often function as personifications of strength, nobility, humility or temptation.


Outreach to Eastern European Judaica Libraries and Museums

Executive Librarian Naomi Steinberger was one of four US participants in the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) visit to Jewish libraries and museums in Warsaw, Tykocin and Krakow, Poland and L'viv and Kiev, Ukraine during July 1999. The goals of the trip were to assess the collections in the institutions, to advise them on their outreach and educational projects, and to foster future cooperation between the American and Eastern European professionals and among the institutions within Eastern Europe.

The group visited research libraries serving both the general public and the scholarly community. The Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw has an important library consisting of about 70,000 books, a museum of Judaica and Jewish art, and archives with documents from before, during and after World War II, including documents from the Warsaw Ghetto and oral histories by Holocaust survivors. There, at the Jewish Documentation Center, which keeps a registry of all synagogues and cemeteries found in Poland, the group met with Malgorzata Barcikowska, who spent the summer of 1997 at the JTS Library as part of this exchange program.

In Kiev, the Vernadsky Library's Judaica collection consists of 150,000 items that were salvaged in 1990 from scattered damp basements of buildings in Kiev, where they had been stored during the Nazi and the Communist regimes. The curators spent five years sorting through and shelving the materials. Their collection of illuminated Pinkasim, their music collection and their collection of Yiddish periodicals are important for the Judaica scholarly community. The music collection includes wax cylinders and transcriptions from ethnomusicological expeditions to shtetls that were made by Shlomo Ansky between 1910 and 1914.

The museums visited by the group included the magnificently renovated synagogue in Tykocin, which is a village where the Nazis executed all 2,500 Jews (from a total village population of 4,000). A local history museum is housed in the reconstructed Beit Midrash building. Included in this Museum is the reconstructed pharmacy of Tykocin. The pharmacy log book contains a listing of all prescriptions filled, signed by the owner of the pharmacy. Once the Nazis invaded Tykocin, a Polish pharmacist had to sign the log book along with the Jewish owner of the pharmacy. After a certain date, the signature of the Jewish pharmacy owner no longer appears. This is the primary documentary evidence of the execution of the Jewish community of Tykocin.

The group also visited museums in Krakow and in L'viv which aim to give local people and tourists a glimpse of the rich but destroyed Jewish culture of central and Eastern Europe. In Krakow, there is a genizah that holds about 4,000 books which are remnants of that city's destroyed Jewish community.

On the concluding day of the trip a joint meeting of representatives from all the participating organizations was held as a first step toward future cooperation. The US representatives plan to continue the exchange of information in order to help their colleagues in Eastern Europe.


From the Rare Book Room: Iyar Pentateuch

The library's rare book room houses a Spanish Pentateuch, an incunable printed in Iyar, 5250 (1490). Incunables are books printed before 1500, and Hebrew incunables are particularly rare. The library owns the largest collection of Hebrew incunables in the world.

The library's copy of the Iyar Pentateuch is especially important for the manuscript glosses written in the margins. These are based on the Aleppo Codex, a Bible manuscript that was brought to the Ben Zvi Institute in Israel in 1958 and is now housed in the Israel Museum. The Pentateuch portion of this important codex was almost totally lost in the riots against the Jews in Aleppo, Syria in 1948. The library's Iyar Pentateuch, therefore, sheds light on the missing portion of that Masoretic text, which was written in Tiberius, probably by Aaron ben Asher, the master of the Masora referred to by Maimonides. Maimonides considered the Aleppo Codex to be the definitive biblical text; its significance can therefore not be overstated.

The Conservation Department, under the direction of the conservators Margarita Blank and Nellie Stavisky, recently undertook the project of restoring the Iyar Pentateuch.

This effort required the cooperation of several institutions and experts, and the use of both traditional methods and modern technology. The library had only fragments of the first two leaves of text, and upon examination, it was discovered that two leaves of Deuteronomy were totally absent. Copies of the missing text pages were requested, and Dr. David Gilner, director of libraries at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, and Mr. Jack Lunzer, custodian of the Valmadonna Trust, London, supplied them. These were scanned at the library and printed onto handmade paper to create facsimile pages. The conservators then integrated the fragments of the first two leaves into the facsimile leaves, and the printed text is now complete.

The conservation process involved disbinding; cleaning, washing and sizing the leaves; repair; and re-assembly of the original quires in preparation for binding. The damaged twentieth-century paper binding is inappropriate to both the structure and the style of the book, and will be replaced by a new and more appropriate leather binding.


Yiddish Sound Recording Project

The family of Eva Miller Greenfield has established a fund to reformat 78 rpm sound recordings of Yiddish music to compact disc format. The library is transferring its collection of 280 sound recordings which are found only on 78 rpms, and are currently unavailable to the general public, to compact disc.

An inventory of this unique collection of recordings of Yiddish music of songs recorded during the first half of the twentieth century by renowned performers has been completed. They offer a glimpse into the Jewish cultural life of this period. The sound recordings are being remastered by a sound engineer and these historically and musically important performances will then be available in the Sabin Family Music Library.

With the recent death of Eva Miller Greenfield, the family has asked that contributions in her memory be made to the Yiddish Music Fund at The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary.


Library Receives Grant

The library has received a grant from the National Foundation of Jewish Culture to create a full-text database of a collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century newspaper articles from the US press about Jewish life.

"News About Jews" comprises approximately 350 documents from the Karp Americana collection at the library. An annotated inventory of the collection is complete and the entire collection will be scanned, both as images and for optical character recognition, so that it will become a searchable database, accessible through the library's website.