Category Archives: Acquisitions

Selected recent acquisitions

ben-shalom-medievalMedieval Jews and the Christian Past: Jewish Historical Consciousness in Spain and Southern France
Ram Ben-Shalom
; Translated from Hebrew by Chaya Naor

“Ram Ben-Shalom offers a detailed analysis of the extent of Jews’ exposure to the history of those with whom they lived, and of how they expressed their historical consciousness in encountering them in different contexts. He shows that the Jews in these southern European lands experienced a relatively open society that was sensitive to and knowledgeable about voices from other cultures, and that this had significant consequences for shaping Jewish historical consciousness.” (Litmann Library of Jewish Civilization, 2015)


kibutzImagining the Kibbutz: Visions of Utopia in Literature and Film

Ranen Omer-Sherman

“In Imagining the Kibbutz, Ranen Omer-Sherman explores the literary and cinematic representations of the socialist experiment that became history’s most successfully sustained communal enterprise. Inspired in part by the kibbutz movement’s recent commemoration of its centennial, this study responds to a significant gap in scholarship. Numerous sociological and economic studies have appeared, but no book-length study has ever addressed the tremendous range of critically imaginative portrayals of the kibbutz. This diachronic study addresses novels, short fiction, memoirs, and cinematic portrayals of the kibbutz by both kibbutz “insiders” (including those born and raised there, as well as those who joined the kibbutz as immigrants or migrants from the city) and “outsiders.” For these artists, the kibbutz is a crucial microcosm for understanding Israeli values and identity. The central drama explored in their works is the monumental tension between the individual and the collective, between individual aspiration and ideological rigor, between self-sacrifice and self-fulfillment. Portraying kibbutz life honestly demands retaining at least two oppositional things in mind at once—the absolute necessity of euphoric dreaming and the mellowing inevitability of disillusionment. As such, these artists’ imaginative witnessing of the fraught relation between the collective and the citizen-soldier is the story of Israel itself.” (Penn State University Press, 2015).






kizilovThe Sons of Scripture: The Karaites in Poland and Lithuania in the Twentieth Century
Kizilov, Mikhail

“Drawing on the variety of archival sources in the host of European and Oriental languages, the book focuses on the history, ethnography, and convoluted ethnic identity of the Polish-Lithuanian Karaites. The vanishing community of the Karaites, a non-Talmudic Turkic-speaking Jewish minority that had been living in Eastern Europe since the late Middle Ages, developed a unique ethnographic culture and religious tradition. The book offers the first comprehensive study of the dramatic history of the Polish-Lithuanian Karaite community in the twentieth century. Especially important is the analysis of the dejudaization (or Turkicization) of the community that saved the Karaites from horrors of the Holocaust.” (De Gruyter Open, 2015)



Seventeenth-century Amsterdam and Canadian Zionism: bound by a book

Menasseh ben Israel’s edition of Esrim ve-Arba’ah (Amsterdam, 1637-1639), Weiss Western Sephardi Collection, shelfmark: PB386.

This small, octavo Hebrew Bible was printed by Menasseh ben Israel, the famous Amsterdam scholar and printer, “the founder of Anglo-Jewry” – as Cecil Roth called him. Menasseh printed three complete Hebrew Bibles in the 1630s. Like his two previous Hebrew Bibles, this edition also has an engraved title page with an architectural design. It provides information about the publication both in Hebrew and underneath in Latin. The Hebrew mentions Menasseh ben Israel, while the Latin gives Ioannis Ianssonius as the publisher. The reason for this is that this Bible was intended to accompany a Greek and Latin New Testament published by Jan Jansson, a Christian publisher and cartographer.


There is a discrepancy in Hebrew and the Latin dates of publication: the Hebrew date is given on the title page in a chronogram citing Psalms (5:10): “My beloved is pure” (שנת דודי צ”ח לפרט קטן). The numerical value of the word צח is 98 which is an abbreviation for anno mundi 5398, that is, 1637 or 1638 CE. The Latin date is however 1639.

This Bible is not accompanied by an introduction; the title page is immediately followed by the biblical text. Unlike Menasseh’s two earlier Hebrew Bibles, this edition is vocalized. The text is printed in two columns, with Masoretic annotations and verse numbers in Hebrew characters in the margins. The Five Megillot (Scrolls) are printed at the end of the Pentateuch, and a table of the Haftarot (additional readings from the Prophetic books) can be found at the end of the volume followed by the colophon of the printer.


The provenance of this copy in the Weisz Western Sephardi Collection takes us further away from Amsterdam and Europe. On one of the last flyleaves, there is an ownership inscription by “Clarence Isaac de Sola.” Could this Clarence be Clarence da Sola, the third son of Montreal’s famous rabbi-scholar, Abraham de Sola? The London-born Abraham was a leader of the Spanish and Portuguese congregation Sheerith Israel (Remnant of Israel) in Montreal, Canada. Clarence became a wealthy businessman with deep interest in the welfare his Jewish community as well as in Anglo-Jewish matters and corresponded with Moses Gaster. Thus, it is very likely that a book previously owned by him ended up in the collection of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of London. Clarence was also involved in the Canadian Zionist movement and kept himself informed about Zionist events worldwide.


One could say that this copy of Menasseh ben Israel’s Bible certainly got into the right hands: Menasseh himself was a diplomat and got actively involved in the readmission of the Jews in England. Clarence followed a similar path by pursuing the welfare of the Jews and propagating the Zionist cause two and a half centuries later.

New Literature Journals

We have been busy buying new books and journals for the Library. Many thanks for all of the suggestions and recommendations from our readers. IMG_2069

We have bought the back catalogue of  הליקון Helicon anthological journal of contemporary poetry and משיב הרוח Mashiv ha-ruaḥ. We will continue to receive these two journals as more issues are published.IMG_2068

We have also bought an online subscription to the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics. Edited by: Geoffrey Khan
Associate editors: Shmuel Bolozky, Steven Fassberg, Gary A. Rendsburg, Aaron D. Rubin, Ora R. Schwarzwald, Tamar Zewi.

Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

You can access the  Encyclopaedia via SOLO using your Single Sign On.

We display our latest acquisitions in the cabinet in the library foyer, and update this weekly. Remember to check regularly to see the newest additions to the Library!


Book Launch and Panel Discussion- Tomorrow

The Journal of Jewish Studies Supplement Series includes the latest title “The Image and its Prohibition in Jewish Antiquity”, which will be launched tomorrow evening at the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Yarnton.

The volume contains essays by leading scholars in the field of Jewish Antiquity including the launch’s discussion panel: Sarah Pearce, (University of Southampton), Professor Philip Alexander FBA (Manchester University), Professor Tessa Rajak (Oxford), Professor Sacha Stern (University College London), Professor Hugh Williamson FBA (Oxford), Dr Jane Heath (University of Durham).
The book is about the use of images by Jews and their contemporaries in the Antique period, in light of the biblical prohibitions against making ‘graven images’ in the Second Commandment:
‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth’ (Deuteronomy 5:8)
‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.’ (Exodus 20:4-5a)
This law was written to combat the proliferation of idols, which distracted from the essence of Judaism, and shifted the attention towards material goods. The prohibition was intended to draw the Israelites away from the creation of idols, rather than to stop all decoration and the production of images.
‘The Image and its Prohibition in Jewish Antiquity’ edited by Sarah Pearce, explores the dynamic between the image-filled classical culture of the Mediterranean world, and the ‘law-inspired’ images within Jewish culture. The book offers examples of Jewish images which borrow from the Classical tradition, but that avoid idolatry, by using art and images for decorative and pedagogical purposes only.
The volume contains beautiful images, produced in exceptionally high-quality, such as the magnificent Macedonian gold wreath from fourth century BCE. The wreath is one of 8 that have been found discovered and thought to have been used for a variety of social and religious ceremonial occasions. A metal band is adorned with leaves and flowers made of very fine gold, which move with the person wearing it, as a wreath made of real foliage would. Jane Heath writes that the wreath is indicative of a Hellenistic interest in realistic art, and the ‘elaboration of the topos of realism’, particularly within the literary tradition. Heath skilfully argues that the Letter of Aristeas is not just combining Greco-Roman ideas with Jewish traditions, but instead uses only non-figurative subjects, and engages with the cultural interest in realism, however draws the line at using allegory to describe the tabernacle gifts instead describing them as realistically as possible; Thereby emphasising the value of the gifts of the tabernacle.
Essays in the book explore contexts including late antique Palestine, urban Galilee, Dura-Europos and Jerusalem. H.G.M. Williamson considers the interesting question of the use of the image of the deity in the First temple in Jerusalem. Williamson looks at archaeological and textual sources from Jewish and contemporary contexts including figurines from Judea, thought to be of the goddess of fertility Ashrah, who was sometimes described as the consort of Yahweh. The scope for this book is wide and the subject matter far-reaching. It is a fantastic exploration into the role of the second commandment within ancient Jewish culture, something which has rarely been given such in-depth attention.
Details of the launch and ways to purchase the book are below. A copy of the supplement is also available in the Library.

Wed 28 May 8pm Yarnton manor

“The Image and its Prohibition in Jewish Antiquity”
Published by the Journal of Jewish Studies
Supplement Series 2



Professor Sarah Pearce (University of Southampton)
Professor Philip Alexander FBA (Manchester University)
Professor Tessa Rajak (Oxford)
Professor Sacha Stern (University College London)
Professor Hugh Williamson FBA (Oxford)
Dr Jane Heath (University of Durham)

The Book will be available for sale with a 30% discount

Light buffet supper from 7pm


Published by the Journal of Jewish Studies:

Distributed by Oxbow:

Leopold Muller Memorial Library

The Library is moving during the summer vacation into central Oxford, for more information about how this will affect readers see our previous blog post or contact Library staff:
As we prepare to move we have also been looking back into the history of the Library at Yarnton Manor.

The Library

The Library

Forty Years ago: 1974
The centre was established in 1972 and moved to Yarnton Manor in 1973/1974. The Barn was converted into a Library space and it has been the home of the main Library ever since. Whilst still in Oxford the Library acquired the Kressel Library (25,000 volumes) and the Kressel Archive(over half a million items), which formed the basis of the Library’s collection.

Thirty Years ago: 1984

A further consignment from the Kressel collection was received between 1982 and 1985.For the Library this period was and space became an increasing issue. These problems are strongly expressed in the annual report about the library 1984/1985: ‘There are 30 tea-chests and 14 cardboard boxes full of books as well as innumerable heaps of books on the floor, and yet very little spare shelving to put them on. The situation has dictated a strategy of the ruthless disposal of all duplicate copies, and even the withdrawal from the shelves of older books superseded by recent scholarship’.


Our reading rooms

Change of name…
At a ceremony in October 1992 the Library changed its name to the Leopold Muller Memorial Library after receiving £1 million donation from the Leopold Muller Estate.


Twenty Years ago: 1994
The Library had grown and many of the materials, including the Qumran collection and the Kressel archive were moved to the Exeter Farm site, which was purchased by the centre in 1991/1992.
At the time the library lent only to Manor residents, and proudly reports loaning 2,012 books during the academic year.

B  010

Ten Years ago: 2004
The Library completed a major milestone in the completion of the online western language catalogue, as part of the Oxford University Library Catalogues (OLIS).

In 2004 Louis Jacob’s extensive library of over 14,000 volumes was donated to the library. Particularly noteworthy are the section on Kabbalah, mysticism and Hasidism, areas which the library was previously lacking. The collection made the Leopold Muller Memorial library an outstanding place for the study of rabbinic Judaism. The collection is used extensively and in 2013 an Oxford Seminar in Advanced Jewish Studies (OSAJS) was held at the centre drawing together international scholars to research. The seminar, ‘Orthodoxy, Theological Debate, and Contemporary Judaism: Exploring Questions Raised in the Thought of Louis Jacobs’ ran from January to June and the library curated an s archive to coincide with the project.


This year the Library put together an exhibition to showcase the the Western Hebrew Library rare book collection deposited on long-term loan from the New West End Synagogue. This collection will complement the library’s growing rare book collection. The Library contains an outstanding collection of early modern Hebrew prints.

W F823

The library will be moving this summer and we look forward to welcoming you to our new home.
Watch this space for 2024!