1940s Scroll of Esther

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Megillat Esther (scroll of Esther), created by the Bezalel School of Art, Palestine, 1940. A gift to the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica from Miriam Finegold Price in memory of Jack Price (ז”ל).

The biblical book of Esther recounts the story of the salvation of the Jews in the Persian Empire (most likely during the reign of Xerxes 486-465 BC.). It was read aloud in synagogues during services for the holiday of Purim. Since the early modern period, the book of Esther has been reproduced in decorative manuscripts and special scroll cases throughout the Jewish Diaspora. This type of artwork was particularly prevalent in the 17th-18th centuries in Italy and Holland. Designed for individuals to own and to be used in the synagogue, such scrolls represented a bridge between personal and communal life.

The Price Library owns a number of Esther scrolls all hailing from different periods. This particular example, a recent special gift from Miriam Finegold Price in memory of Jack Price, was produced by the Bezalel School of Art in Palestine. From its establishment in 1906, students in the Bezalel School of Art began to revive the artistic interpretation of Esther scrolls, an art which had declined during the 19th century. Our library’s scroll was carved from original burled olive wood, and it is lightly engraved with depictions of the Western wall in the old city of Jerusalem. The Hebrew word for “Jerusalem” (written with the final letter yod and thus dating it to the 1940s) together with the words “Rachel our mother,” and the “Western Wall” are written onto the wood in black ink. The vellum manuscript inside the case containing the story of Esther is entirely written in black ink.

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We cherish these artistic scrolls for they reveal a great deal about the social and cultural characteristics of their creators, of the patrons who commissioned them, and the communities to which they belonged.

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Jewish Woman Printer

This rare edition of the Machzor (prayer book) belonged to the Rev. Benjamin Safer (1872-1959), the first rabbi of Jacksonville. The text is based on the famous nine-volume Machzor produced by Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim in 1800 CE. Heidenheim’s Machzor included, in addition to the Hebrew text, the first pure German translation (in Hebrew characters) of the liturgical poems for the festivals. Heidenheim devoted great care to typographical setup as well as to the restoration of the correct text of the prayers. His edition of the Machzor was so well regarded that numerous haskamot (rabbinic prohibitions) were issued against reprinting it. Nevertheless, its popularity was such that many reprints were surreptitiously produced in the mid to late 19th century.

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This particular edition was printed by Pessel Balaban, the most famous Jewish woman printer in Lemberg during the second half of the 19th century. While her husband Pinhus Moshe Balaban was alive she was very active in his printing business, issuing copies of the Bible with commentaries, but after his death she expanded the press, producing high-quality editions of halakhic texts such as the Shulhan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law). Pessel Balaban was the best-known of a number of Jewish women printers who were active in Lemberg in the 19th century distributing copies of Jewish religious texts throughout Eastern Europe.

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DORSA album

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This photograph is part of a special album recently acquired for the Judaica Suite. The album was assembled in 1941 to commemorate the first anniversary of the founding of the Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA), and the establishment of a colony in Sousa for Jewish refugees. Three years earlier, President Roosevelt had convened a 32 nation conference at Evian to discuss the resettlement of German Jews. It was a difficult task as most nations refused to receive more than a few thousand people. One exception was the Dominican Republic, which offered to take as many as 100,000 Jews provided they agreed to work in agriculture. The uptake was slow, initially only 50 Jews made it across the Atlantic, arriving in May 1940. They were given eighty acres of land and ten cows and received instruction in farming from kibbutzim in Palestine. The population peaked in October 1941 at about 500 before the Third Reich suspended Jewish emigration. The album contains 66 photographs, newspaper clippings and printed ephemera including a menu, concert program and letters. It probably belonged to James N. Rosenberg, president of DORSA as it contains letters addressed to him from President Rafael Trujillo, and a presentation inscription which reads: “To the ‘Chief’ with deepest affection faithfully Alfred Wagg 3rd April 17th 1941.” Alfred Wagg served as the Secretary to the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees.

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Songs from India

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Hebrew and Marathi Songs, Bombay, 1930

The precise historical roots of the Bene Israel Jews of India remains unknown with theories positing their arrival in India from as early as 500 BCE to as late as the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, the Bene Israel lived for many centuries isolated from Jewish life elsewhere. As a result, they adopted the dress and many of the customs of their Konkan neighbors and spoke the mainstream Marathi language. The traditional Hebrew liturgical songs in this rare book are translated into Marathi for the Bene Israel community. See the full work online in our Jewish Diaspora Collection.
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A Children’s Book for Passover

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Chad Gadjo, Berlin, 1920.

A page from an illustrated version of the famous Passover song of Chad Gadya (Gadjo). The illustrations were produced by the Jewish Austrian artist Menachem Birnbaum and adapted by his younger brother Uriel. Each arresting color woodblock illustration is accompanied by the text of the song printed in both Hebrew and German. The illustrations are printed on vellum-like parchment. Menachem and Uriel Birnbaum were sons of the Jewish philosopher Nathan Birnbaum. Menachem died in Auschwitz in 1944.

Donated to the Judaica Library by Miriam Finegold Price in honor of Samuel Price’s 90th birthday.

 

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Mexican Jewish Cooking

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See the full version of this publication in our Latin American Jewish collections online in our Jewish Diaspora Collections.

 

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Mexican Jewish Newspaper

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In partnership with the Centro de Documentación e Investigación Judío de México, the George A. Smathers Libraries project team has digitized 275 issues of the Jewish Mexican newspaper Kesher. The Libraries hold 275 issues of Kesher on microfilm, published between June 1987 to December 2003. The digitized content is now available in the freely accessible Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) and featured in the newly developing Jewish Diaspora Collection. The project will provide easy access to an important publication that will contribute to the greater understanding and future scholarship of the Jewish communities in Latin America.

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Albert Einstein in Jewish Cuba

 

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Rare publication on Einstein authored by Jewish Cuban writer, Abraham Marcus Matterin and published by the Agrupacion Cultural Hebreo-Cubana in 1955. See the full publication in our Jewish Diaspora Collection.

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Anti-Semitic Songs for Children

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Thanks to a generous donation by a faculty member at UF, this rare, first-edition, anti-Semitic children’s book was recently added to the Price Library of Judaica. The book, entitled Das Lied Vom Levi (The Song of Levi) was compiled by Eduard Schwechten in 1895. It features 45 disgusting full and partial page anti-Semitic half-tone illustrations by Siegfried Horn.

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Tribute to Juan Alsina

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A commemorative pamphlet created to accompany an album dedicated to the Argentinian Director of Immigration, Juan Alsina, in 1910. The complete pamphlet can be viewed in our digital collections.

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