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.
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.