Sefer Tehilim = Psalterium Hebraicum (Basel: Johann Froben, 1523) (shelfmark PB449)

One of the smallest books in our newly acquired Weisz Sephardi Collection is a Book of Psalms in Hebrew. Together with its binding, it is 11cm by 8cm in size. This tiny volume was published by Johann Froben in Basel in 1523.

Psalterium Hebraicum (Basle: Johann Froben, 1523)

Psalterium Hebraicum (Basel: Johann Froben, 1523)

Portrait of Johann Froben by Hans Holbein the Younger, Hampton Court

Portrait of Johann Froben by Hans Holbein the Younger, Hampton Court

 

The colophon at the end of the volume says:
BASILEAE IN AEDIBVS IOANNIS FROBENII, MENSE MARTIO. AN. M.D.XXIII.
“Basel, in the house of Johann Froben, March, 1523”

Colophon, Psalterium Hebraicum (Basle: Johann Froben, 1523)

Colophon, Psalterium Hebraicum (Basel: Johann Froben, 1523)

Johann Froben (ca. 1460 Hammelburg – 1527 Basel), one of the most prominent printers of sixteenth-century Basel. He established a printing house in Basel together with the already successful printer, Johannes Auerbach (1443-1513). Froben collaborated with leading scholars of the age, such as Erasmus and Konrad Pellikan. Many of his publications were illustrated by woodcuts designed by two renowned artists, Hans Holbein the Younger and Urs Graf. The woodcut decorating the title page of this Hebrew book of Psalters, contains in its centre Froben’s printer’s device: the staff of Mercury surrounded by two crowned snakes and a dove. The device was designed by Hans Holbein the Younger. Holbein also painted two portraits of Froben, one of which is on display in Hampton Court.

 

Title page, Psalterium Hebraicum (Basle: Johann Froben, 1523)

Title page, Psalterium Hebraicum (Basel: Johann Froben, 1523)

Johann Froben's printer's device

Title page, Psalterium Hebraicum (Basel: Johann Froben, 1523)

Printer’s waste, Psalterium Hebraicum (Basel: Johann Froben, 1523)

A closer look reveals that even the binding of the volume can offer something to the curious-minded: it has Latin manuscript waste in its binding — a widespread way of recycling discarded parchment or paper leaves.

Printer's waste, Psalterium Hebraicum (Basel: Johann Froben, 1523)

New Acquisition: ‘Jewish Rights, National Rites: Nationalism and Autonomy in Late Imperial and Revolutionary Russia’ by Simon Rabinovitch

pid_23788Abstract (source): In its full-color poster for elections to the All-Russian Jewish Congress in 1917, the Jewish People’s Party depicted a variety of Jews in seeking to enlist the support of the broadest possible segment of Russia’s Jewish population. It forsook neither traditional religious and economic life like the Jewish socialist parties, nor life in Europe like the Zionists. It embraced Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian as fulfilling different roles in Jewish life. It sought the democratization of Jewish communal self-government and the creation of new Russian Jewish national-cultural and governmental institutions. Most importantly, the self-named “folkists” believed that Jewish national aspirations could be fulfilled through Jewish autonomy in Russia and Eastern Europe more broadly. Ideologically and organizationally, this party’s leadership would profoundly influence the course of Russian Jewish politics.

Jewish Rights, National Rights provides a completely new interpretation of the origins of Jewish nationalism in Russia. It argues that Jewish nationalism, and Jewish politics generally, developed in a changing legal environment where the idea that nations had rights was beginning to take hold, and centered on the demand for Jewish autonomy in Eastern Europe. Drawing on numerous archives and libraries in the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Israel, Simon Rabinovitch carefully reconstructs the political movement for Jewish autonomy, its personalities, institutions, and cultural projects. He explains how Jewish autonomy was realized following the February Revolution of 1917, and for the first time assesses voting patterns in November 1917 to determine the extent of public support for Jewish nationalism at the height of the Russian revolutionary period. (Stanford University Press, 2014)

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New Acquisition: ‘The Swedish Jews and the Victims of Nazi Terror, 1933-1945’ by Pontus Rudberg

 

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Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Historica Upsaliensia 253, Editores: Margaret Hunt, Jan Lindegren & Maria Agren.

Abstract: “We will be judged in our own time and in the future by measuring the aid that we, inhabitants of a free and fortunate country, gave to our brethren in this time of greatest disaster.” This declaration, made shortly after the Pogroms of November 1938 by the representatives of the Jewish communities in Sweden, was truer than anyone could have anticipated at the time. It is this sensitive and much debated issue – Jewish responses to the persecutions and mass murders of Jews during the Nazi era – with which this book deals. What actions did Swedish Jews take to aid the Jews in Europe during the years 1933-45 and what determined and constrained their policies and actions?

This book focuses especially on the aid efforts of the Jewish Community of Stockholm, showing the range of activities in which the Community engaged, and the challenges and opportunities presented by official refugee policy in Sweden and by international organizations for refugee aid and foreign relief to Jews. Wheareas previous research has tended to see the Swedish Jewish response to Nazi terror as passive and overly cautious, this book modifies this picture. It concludes that in fact Swedish Jews acted incessantly and on many fronts to aid their brethren, and they did so throughout the entire period 1933 to 1945. Moreover, the form and limited scope of that aid are ultimately attributable more to rigid governmental refugee policies, inadequate financial resources, and international pressures than to a lack of effort or will on the part of Swedish Jews.

 

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)

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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).

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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)

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Chaim Arlosoroff’s life and mystery murder

Guest blog entry by Peter Bergamin

Chaim Arlosoroff (1899-1933) was of one of the most important and brilliant figures in Zionist political life in British Mandatory Palestine. His killing remained the Jewish political murder until the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995.

Arlosoroff

Arlosoroff’s Ex Libris from our collections

Born Chaim Vitaly Viktor Arlosoroff on 23 February 1899 in Romny, Ukraine, Arlosoroff’s position reflected that of many other Jews of his location, and time. The grandson of a rabbi, and son of a wheat and lumber merchant, he grew up in a comfortable semi-assimilated familial environment that straddled Russian, German, and Hebrew cultural influences. In 1905, in the wake of anti-Jewish pogroms, the family fled to East Prussia, eventually settling in Königsberg. And in 1914 – having successfully avoided deportation back to Russia, due to the outbreak of war – the family moved once again, to Berlin. Arlosoroff identified more and more with German national culture, although his Russian citizenship precluded him from joining the German war effort.

It was during this time that he began to embrace socialist ideals, due in no small part to the identity crisis he experienced as a ‘Russian’ who – due to his existential circumstances – now identified with his German national-cultural surroundings, and finally, as a Jew in all of this, a factor that fundamentally set him apart from both of these national cultures. Thus, his socialism looked increasingly to Jewish sources, and he was especially influenced by Martin Buber, A. D. Gordon, and Gustav Landauer. By 1919, Arlosoroff had joined the Zionist party HaPoel HaTzair (‘The Young Worker’), which had been founded – inter alios – by A.D. Gordon, and subscribed to his ideology of the ‘redemption of the land of Israel’ through agricultural endeavours. That same year, he published what became his best-known work, Jewish People’s Socialism, which sought to combine universal socialist ideals with a strong sense of ethnic-national – indeed, ‘völiksch’ – Jewish identity. This contributed to his rapid rise within the party. In 1924, he emigrated to British Mandatory Palestine, where he quickly established himself as a leader in the Zionist Labour movement, and helped effect a merger between HaPoel HaTzair with the more Marxist Poale Zion, into the Mapai Labour Party. Mapai would enjoy political hegemony over the land for years to come, and Arlosoroff represented the party in the Zionist Executive, and as Head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency for Palestine.

It was in this latter role that Arlosoroff negotiated the HaAvara Agreement with the Nazi Party, in 1933. It permitted the transfer of Jewish capital from Germany to Palestine by immigrants or investors in the form of German goods. Although it protected – to some degree – the capital of German-Jewish emigres to Palestine, the agreement also assisted the Germans through increased production and export of goods which, technically, were bought by Jews at the other end. The agreement was highly controversial, and drew harsh criticism from the right-wing Jewish press in Palestine. Two days after he returned from its negotiations in Germany, Arlosoroff was shot and killed while walking on the beach with his wife. The murder has not been solved to this day, but various theories abound. Many believe that Arlosoroff was killed by members of the extreme, ‘Maximalist’ wing of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Party, and three of the party’s members – Abba Ahimeir, Zvi Rosenblatt, and Avraham Stavsky – were arrested in connection to the murder. All three were subsequently acquitted; Ahimeir, before the trial began, Rosenblatt and Stavsky, after standing trial (although Stavsky was originally found guilty and acquitted only on appeal). Others believe that Arlosoroff was murdered by two Arab youths, in a foiled robbery attempt. And some believe that he was murdered by Nazi agents: not only had he just negotiated the HaAvara Agreement, but he had been on very friendly terms, perhaps even romantically-so, with Magda Behrend – later, Magda Goebbels – just after the end of the First World War. The irreparable damage that such information would have caused to the Nazi propaganda machine, if leaked to the German public, goes without saying.

No matter who killed Arlosoroff, his murder cut short the life and career of one of the most important and brilliant figures in Zionist political life in British Mandatory Palestine. Indeed, Arlosoroff’s killing remained the Jewish political murder until the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995.