Monthly Archives: November 2016

Launch of The Weisz Western Sephardi Collection

Thanks to the generosity of the Joir and Kato Weisz Foundation, which acquired the collection from the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation of London and donated it to the Centre, the Leopold Muller Memorial Library has been privileged to receive the Weisz Western Sephardi Collection.

The collection was assembled mainly by the late Dr Richard Barnett, the Honorary Archivist of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation. It comprises over 500 items, including books, manuscripts, sermons, rabbinic responsa and commentaries, as well as letters by Sephardi Jews, some of them rabbis or members of the Congregation or of the mother congregation in Amsterdam; there are also works by Christian Hebraists which witness to the continued exchange of opinions and knowledge between the members of Jewish communities and their host nations. There are many examples of printed ephemera, including notably prayers for special occasions and calendars, and also printed and other material for the internal use of the communities, such as community and philanthropic societies’ byelaws, ordinances and lists of members. Notable is the only known copy of the first edition of the Prayer Book for Sephardi usage printed in England, in 1721.

There is a rich trove of works in Spanish and Portuguese, including both translations from the Hebrew and original works, all aimed at making it possible for newly arrived Crypto-Jews, also known as marranos, to acquire a functioning knowledge of Judaism. The works encompass Bible, prayer books, apologetic treatises and practical manuals of kashrut and purity; in short, manuals for people who had all but forgotten everything about Judaism but who knew that their families had once been Jewish.

Most of the printed material comes from Amsterdam and some is from London. There are also works printed in Alexandria, Algiers, Altona-Hamburg, Barbados, Basel, Bordeaux, Corfu, Curaçao, Florence, Gibraltar, The Hague, Livorno, Madrid, Naples, Oporto, Paris, Nice, Utrecht, Verona and Venice – a true atlas of the Sephardi Diaspora.


The Centre is grateful to the Weisz Foundation for the donation, to Mr Edgar Samuel for initiating the transfer of the collection and to Dr Jeremy Schonfield for facilitating the process.


Tuesday 15th November 2016, 6pm
at the Clarendon Institute

Professor David Abulafia
The first Sephardim in the Atlantic Islands

Refreshments will follow