Alsina Album

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Bound in contemporary maroon cowhide, with gilt borders; the front cover of this deluxe presentation album is decorated with an elaborate chased brass floral ornament incorporating a shield engraved with the inscription “La Colectividad Israelita al Doctor Juan A. Alsina”, flanked by the seated figure of Hermes with herald’s staff and anchor, and by the allegorical figure of ‘Argentina’, as an earth goddess, standing to the right, holding a sheaf of grain, a sickle, fruits and flowers. The album was presented in 1910 by the Argentine Jewish community to the retiring Director of the Immigration Authority, Dr. Juan Antonio Alsina (1852-1937), a highly respected civil servant and decorated academician, founder of the Historical Museum of La Plata, author and publisher. A separately printed festschrift (dated 18 December 1910) of 48 pages of text in Spanish, Hebrew, and Russian, containing the laudatory addresses of the presentation commission, and Alsina’s reply. According to the Israeli historian Haim Avni, Alsina’s attitude toward Jewish immigrants to Argentina, to put it mildly, varied. Though, following the 1853 Argentina had a relatively liberal, one could say open immigration policy, the Argentine immigration authorities were not enthusiastic upon encountering Eastern European Jews who arrived to the shores of Buenos Aires and made an unlikely impression as experienced farmers who would work on the pampas and become Jewish gauchos. In 1894, settlers protested Baron Maurice de Hirsch’s plan to enter into contractual relationship with them to repay their debts, a suggestion, which betrayed a great deal of economic planning behind the Baron’s philanthropic gestures.  Newspapers duly reported about the “fierce clash” between the settlers and the Jewish Colonialization Association (founded on Aug 24, 1891) officers. The news of the antagonism reached officials such as Alsina. Probably also influenced by these news, Alsina’s initial positive attitude to Baron Hirsch’s plan changed. He sided with the rebellious settler in this dispute while also developed a negative attitude toward immigration. Whereas the proper place of the Album in the history of Jewish immigration to Argentina is yet to be marked, it is a unique testimony of how the Jewish immigrants wished to shape their relationship with the local authorities. It contains 1052 autograph signatures of Russian Jewish immigrants in Cyrillic, Hebrew and Latin script as a symbolic gesture of both appreciation and as an inducement to the recipient to continue to allow Jewish immigration and as an antidote to his known expressions of subtle antisemitism. See the full Alsina Album in our Jewish Diaspora Collection online.

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Schapiro’s Wines

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The Price Library of Judaica would like to wish its Jewish patrons a Chag Sameach for Passover! This year in celebration of the holiday we will highlight one of the rare Hagadahs in our Hagadah Collection: the Schapiro House of Kosher Wine Hagadah, New York, 1938. This Hagadah is listed on the world catalog as being held by only one other library, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto. The Hagadah celebrates 40 years of the Schapiro Wine company, founded by Sam Schapiro in 1899, and in the introduction it provides a history of the company and its founder in Yiddish. A two-page spread at the back of the Hagadah lists the various health benefits of wine as discovered by researchers in France! See the article here (http://www.boweryboogie.com/2013/03/when-schapiros-wine-company-ruled-rivington-street-photos/) for more information about the Schapiro Wine company, and how Schapiro’s great-grandson here in Florida has paid tribute to his family’s history.

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Jewish Oranges

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Jamaican Almanac with Jewish Calendar

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Hiding within the fifteenth page of The New Jamaica Almanack and Register (Saint Jago de la Vega, 1795) is a “Kalendar of Months, Sabbaths, and Holidays, which the Hebrews or Jews Observe and Keep, for the Years 5555 and 5556 of the Creation.”

Almanacs issued in Jamaica included a page of the Jewish calendar as early as 1776, which may have indicated that the Jewish residents held some importance in the eyes of the wider Christian population. These Jamaican calendars represent the earliest appearances of the Hebrew font in this region. The first Hebrew calendar on the American
continent was not printed until 1851.

 

 

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Yarzheit Calendar

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This Yarzheit calendar in the Judaica Suite recalls the anniversary of the death of one Sara Wertheim who died in Germany in 1930. The calendar was rescued from the Nazis and stored in the Offenbach Archival Depot before it came to America.

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Jewish Children in Prewar Berlin

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Three rare Jewish children’s almanacs from Berlin published between 1928-1932 and bound together in one volume. The almanacs are written in German and richly illustrated by numerous artists. The books contain stories, poems, plays, legends, crafts, puzzles, pictures, photographs, and a yearly calendar.

 

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Rare Almanac Uruguay

 

calendar-from-uruguay-1936-1937

The Judaica Suite has acquired a rare almanac in Yiddish from Uruguay for the years 1936 to 1937. The almanac features a calendar, local advertisements, statistics charting the Jewish population of Latin America and Uruguay, notices from Jewish federations and organizations, and a history of the local community.

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Preserving Jewish Books Through Censorship

 

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Lingering around one of the books in the Judaica Suite, a thin, tattered work bound in paper, is the ghost of a 19th-century Jewish censor. The book is a rare edition of Toldot Adam, a biography of Elijah ben Solomon, the Gaon of Vilna, composed by Ezekiel Wolf in 1801 and published in Warsaw in 1857. In addition, to being an important account of a leading Jewish scholar, this particular edition captures our interest due to its notice of censorship.

The notice states that the publication of this work has been allowed because it has met the criteria of the Censorship Committee, which has decreed that a discreet number of copies may be printed. The notice concludes with the date December, 2, 1857 and the name of the censor, J. Tugendhold.

Jacob Tugendhold (1794-1871) was a Jewish scholar and author who served as a liaison to the Polish government. Tugendhold first worked as a private tutor, and was later commissioned to create Poland’s first state-run Jewish elementary schools.

His close association with government institutions would lead to other appointments, including director of a cholera hospital, member of the Civic Committee for municipal authorities in Warsaw, and the government appointed censor of Hebrew publications.

The 19th century witnessed a geographical shift in the center of Hebrew and Yiddish printing to Russia and Poland, and alongside that came the introduction of harsh government censorship. Books of a religious nature, Hasidic literature in particular, were subject to intense scrutiny and were often destroyed. The importing of Hebrew books to Poland was banned and examiners were appointed to visit Polish cities to ensure that this policy was upheld.  Books like the one in the Judaica Suite, survived only because of the intervention and bravery of Jewish censors like Tugendhold and his brother, Wolf, who served as the censor in Vilna.

Tugendhold’s focused his own writings on fighting anti-Semitism. His struggle against Polish anti-Semitism led him to be involved in many high profile public disputes, and a number of his publications provoked heated debate.

Despite an active life, engaging in public life and defending his people, Jacob Tugendhold died in 1871 in poverty and obscurity.

Sources:

  1. Moss, Kenneth B. “Printing and Publishing: Printing and Publishing after 1800.” YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe 27 October 2010.
  2. Nathans, Benjamin and Gabriella Safran (eds), Culture Front: Representing Jews in Eastern Europe, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2008.
  3. Popper, William, The Censorship of Hebrew Books, The Knickerbocker Press, New York, 1899.
  4. Wodziński, Marcin. “Tugendhold, Jakob.” YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe 29 October 2010.
  5. Wolf, Ezekiel Feivel ben Ze’ev, Toldot Adam… Shelomoh Zalman mi-Vilna, Warsaw, T. Y. Bomberg, 1857.
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Jose Martí and Jewish Cuban Identity

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This rare pamphlet, Martí y Las Discriminaciones Raciales (Martí and Racial Discrimination), produced in 1953, celebrates Jose Martí’s (1853-1895) racial tolerance and ethnic inclusion as part of a wider celebration of Cuba’s national hero 100 years after his birth.

It was acquired from a book dealer not long after its publication in the mid-1950s, only a few years after the University of Florida (UF) appointed Irene Zimmerman to build the Latin American collection from scratch. UF began collecting Caribbean materials from an early period, but as a result of the Farmington Plan, a national cooperative acquisitions program devised after WWII, the university was appointed the collector of record for the Caribbean. This collecting focus would later provide the impetus for the UF Libraries to establish the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), a cooperative of 38 partners from within the Caribbean and circumCaribbean, enabling online access to research materials held in archives, libraries and private collections across this region.

Thanks to Emily Madden, the Price Library’s Senior Technical Assistant, who identified the Martí pamphlet for inclusion in the exhibition A Celebration of Jewish Life and Culture around the World, it was transferred permanently for housing within the Judaica Collection. Written by a leading Jewish Cuban figure and published by a Jewish organization, it expresses admiration for Jose Martí and recasts his message of tolerance and inclusion for a new audience and age. Although its provenance places it firmly within the Jewish sphere, what this Spanish-language pamphlet really aimed to do was to speak out to the wider Cuban community: to establish a firm Jewish connection to Martí and the land of Cuba, and to inculcate a notion of tolerance towards Jewish Cubans, i.e Cubans who happen to be Jews rather than Jews who happen to be living in Cuba.

Jewish Cubans constituted a minority group of mixed origins. The first to settle on the island permanently were a small group of American Jews who had given financial and military support to Martí’s fight for Cuban independence in 1898.  By 1904, the community had grown to 300 families and they had established the first reform synagogue in Cuba. Over 5,000 Orthodox Sephardi Jews arrived during the years leading up to WWI, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, and Cuba’s first Orthodox synagogue was founded in 1914.

The United States tightened its immigration laws in the 1920s and Ashkenazi Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern European countries found themselves seeking temporary refuge in Cuba. During the 1920s, the Jewish population exceeded 20,000. When the worldwide depression hit in 1929, the Jewish community began to feel a corresponding rise in anti-Semitism, and in the 1930s, Nazi agents helped stir up anti-Jewish feeling in Cuba. Nevertheless, around 3,000 Jewish refugees were permitted to enter Cuba between 1938 and 1939 and, in spite of the tragic affair of the St. Louis ship, which was turned away from Cuba’s shores and its refugees returned to Nazi Europe, most Jews living in Cuba felt relatively secure.

In the postwar era, Cuba’s Jewish community grew in numbers and expressed open confidence in their new national identity. New Jewish institutions were founded, including a sumptuous new cultural center, the Patronato Hebreo, in the Havana suburb of Vedado, as well as numerous Jewish social clubs and medical facilities. The community increased its publishing output and established its own Spanish-language monthly magazine, Israelia in addition to the long-standing Yiddish/Spanish periodical Havaner Lebn.

The editor of our pamphlet, Abraham Marcus Matterin, a Lithuanian immigrant to Cuba in the 1920s, was a prominent member of the Cuban Jewish community. He authored and edited many books which attempted to align Jewish and Cuban culture, including our pamphlet, a book called The Jews and the Cuban Flag, and a translation into Spanish of the works of the great Hebrew poet, Judah HaLevi. Matterin also developed a community library, and he maintained a “museum of Jewish life in Cuba” in his home, which included documents on Jewish contributions to Cuban independence.

In the 1950s, during the highpoint of Jewish life in Cuba, Matterin led a group of young Jewish intellectuals to form a cultural association in Havana. Together they sought to promote the complexity of their Cuban-Jewish identity through artistic and cultural activities and outreach. One of their publications, a rare copy of which is owned by the Price Library, is a Yiddish poem, Miṭn ponim tsu der zun (De Cara al Sol or Facing the Sun) by Abraham Vainstein. The poem reveals a profound sense of attachment to Martí and the religious, ethnic and racial tolerance for which he stood. The use of an old European Jewish language to celebrate Cuban history reveals much about the attempts of Vainstein, and the other members of the cultural association, to assert the legitimacy of preserving a mixed cultural and ethnic identity. This is particularly apparent in the poem’s final verse which states “I am loving you from my roots because you yourself also loved the exiled Jewish people.” Vainstein’s poem was also issued as part of a collection of works edited by Matterin, entitled Martí Visto por Hebreos (Martí as Seen by the Jews) one year after the publication of our 1953 pamphlet.

Thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge grant awarded to the Libraries in 2014, the Latin American and Caribbean Collection, the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History and the Price Library of Judaica are working together in an effort to broaden access to humanities resources relating to the Jewish experience in Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. As part of this initiative we were able to digitize Abraham Matterin’s small pamphlet, and we are proud that this piece, which in itself represents a plea for mutual engagement, tolerance and respect, has now become a milestone item for the University of Florida Digital Collections as its 10 millionth scanned page .

Further Reading

“Abraham Marcus Matterin is Dead at 67,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 13, 1983(http://www.jta.org/1983/05/13/archive/abraham-marcus-matterin-dead-at-67).

Ruth Behar, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, Rutgers University Press, 2007.

Margalit Bejarano, The Jewish Community of Cuba, Magnes Press, Israel, 2015.

Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Cuban-Jewish Journeys: Searching for Identity, Home and History in Miami, University of Tennessee Press, 2000.

Maritza Corrales, The Chosen Island: Jews in Cuba, Salsedo Press, 2005.

 

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The Fruits of Jewish Life in Pre-War Germany

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This beautiful image comes from the front cover of the periodical Rimon (Pomegranate) produced in Berlin in 1922. Written in Hebrew, Rimon was the first Jewish journal dedicated to the arts in Jewish life. A Yiddish counterpart, Milgroym, was issued at the same time. Both journals were launched by husband and wife collaborators, architect and art historian, Rachel Bernstein Wischnitzer (1885-1989) and historian, Mark Wischnitzer (1882-1955). The pair, working together with a small circle of émigré Russian Jews, found financial support for their publication from Russian Jewish philanthropists keen to encourage Hebrew publishing. Wischnitzer, along with journalist, Baruch Krupnik (1899-1972), served as the journal’s general editor, and his wife Rachel assumed the role of artistic editor.

Each issue of Rimon was lavishly printed and included contributions from leading writers and artists, such as Joseph Tchaikov and Shmuel Agnon. The covers, including the one featured above, were designed by Ernst Boehm and are distinguished by their bold imagery and striking colors. Boehm used traditional Jewish motifs and took inspiration from Russian Avant Garde artists such as Nathan Altman (1889-1970) the well-known Cubist painter, and El Lissitzky (1890-1941) whose work greatly influenced the Bauhaus movement. The journal was printed on fine paper, and great attention was paid to layout and typography.

More than 30 different Hebrew publishing houses were active in Germany in the early 1920s. Within a short period, they had succeeded in printing hundreds of quality Hebrew titles. Unfortunately, economic conditions in Germany meant that such an ambitious and lavish journal as Rimon was disbanded in 1924, having produced only six issues in its two-year life span.

A complete set of Rimon is held in the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica.

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