Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Articles on Jewish Prayers


Where can I find articles about the history of weekday shaharit prayers? I have identified many articles published since the mid-1960's in RAMBI, but I would also like to find articles published earlier in the 20th century.


Joseph Tabory's magnificent bibliography Jewish Prayer and the Yearly Cycle רשימת מאמרים בענייני תפילה ומועדים , published as a Supplement to volume 64 of Kiryat Sefer (The Jewish National and University Library, 1993) is a comprehensive listing of articles, in Hebrew and European languages, published from the mid-1800's up to the 1990's.

It covers not only individual prayers and prayer services, but also historical aspects of Jewish prayer, prayer in specific geographic and ethnic communities, Shabbat and the holidays, the reading the Torah, the language of prayer, concepts expressed in the liturgy, and more.

Tabory has compiled corrections and additions to this bibliography, published with his facsimile edition of the 1628 Siddur Hanau סידור הנאו שפ"ח : מהדורה פקסימילית : עם פרקי מבוא ונספח ביבליוגרפי (Bar Ilan University, 1994). Reference BM 656 S5

Jewish Prayer and the Yearly Cycle is located in the JTS Library’s Reference collection at Z6371.L5 T3 1993

Do you recognize this story?

The following question was received at the library’s reference email:

I have been searching for a Hanukkah short story for several years. I heard it on NPR 15 years ago, got it out of the library and read it aloud to my family. But I have lost track of the name. It concerns a young cheder boy who gambles everything, including his prized siddur at dreidle. He is humiliated. Years later he is causally told that the winner's dreidle had a gimmel on all four sides. Can you help me learn the title and author?

The librarians here have, so far, been unable to answer this question. We would like to put this question to all the readers of this blog in the hope that someone may have the needed information. Is there anyone out there who can identify the title and author of the referenced story?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Second Temple Literature and Historical Events

Question: Please direct me to a chronology of Second Temple literature, including Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Answer: This Timeline , developed by Dr. Charles Ess of Drury University in Missouri, provides a chronology of selected Second Temple literature in its historical context--both by date, by political event, and by milestone in the development of early Judaism.

Two of the resources described in the December 10 posting include selected apocrypha, pseudepigrapha and Dead Sea Scrolls in their historical context. The Timetables of Jewish History: a Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in Jewish History by Judah Gribetz (Simon & Schuster, 1993) is best used for Second Temple writings via its index. Look up the title of the ancient book you are researching; you will be referred to the relevant listing by date and column. A Timeline of Jewish Texts also includes a few Second Temple compositions.

The Chronology of Jewish Literature provides a dated listing of selected Biblical and post-Biblical books, with dates of composition, co-related to major historical events. This website was created by a Dutch historian, Jona Lendering.

More comprehensive information about the dating and historical background of Second Temple literature can be found in individual articles in standard encyclopedias such as the Encyclopedia Judaica, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Cambridge History of Judaism:

-- The "Apocyrpha and Pseudepigrapha" article in the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Oxford University Press, 2000) indicates which of these texts are represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls, along with a probable date for these particular copies. This encyclopedia is an excellent resource for an overview on each Dead Sea text and on the genres found in the Judean Desert -- for example, see these articles: "The Damascus Document" , "Hodayot", "Psalms, Hymns, and Prayers" and "Rules" .

--The "Apocrypha" article in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, 1992) lists the main texts along with probable dates of composition.

--The Table of Contents of James Charlesworth's The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 volumes (Doubleday, 1983) clearly lists the title of each document, along with a range of dates for its probably composition. The introduction to each chapter goes into much more detail about the composition dates, including different dates for different parts of each text.

--A "Chronological Table" listing concurrent events in Palestine, Rome/Italy, Egypt and other parts of the ancient Near East is in the back (or front) of volumes 1, 2 and 3 of the Cambridge History of Judaism (Cambridge University Press, 1984-2006). These tables focus on political and military events, merely providing the historical background, without mentioning any texts.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brothers of Alter Rebbe

I believe that I may be descended from one of the brothers of the first HaBaD Rebbe. Would you help me find out what their names were?

The first HaBaD rebbe was Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lyady (1745-1813). He is often referred to as the “Alter (elder) Rebbe”. The famous Hasidic movement known as Lubavitch belongs to the HaBaD tradition. According to the work The Rebbeim : the life of the Alter Rebbe, compiled by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon (Brooklyn, NY : S.D. Avtzon, 2005), Rabbi Shneur Zalman had three brothers (see p.253-254). Their names were:
- Rabbi Yehudah Leib of Yanovitch (often referred to as the MaHaRYL, author of the work She'erit Yehudah)
- Rabbi Mordechai (served as rabbi of the town of Orsha)
- Rabbi Moshe (served as rabbi of the town of Bayov)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can an unborn child learn?

Is there any source in the Talmud for the concept that an unborn child has awareness and can learn during the gestation period?

In the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Nidah, p.30b, s.v. darash Rabi Simlai) there is an extensive description of the state of the fetus in its mother's womb. The Talmud teaches that the unborn child is taught the entire Torah while in the womb. When the fetus exits the womb in order to be born an angel comes, strikes it on its mouth, and makes it forget everything it has studied. It will be necessary for the newborn to relearn the Torah during its lifetime. The Talmud (ibid.) records many other fascinating teachings about the life of the unborn child during the months of gestation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rabbinic Texts and Historical Events

Question: Where can I find a graphic historical overview of the eras when the classic Rabbinic texts (Mishna, Talmud, Midrash, Biblical commentaries, legal codes, etc) were written and edited?

Answer: I suggest you look at one of these Jewish history timelines:

Codex Judaica: Chronological Index of Jewish History by Mattis Kantor (Zichron Press, 2005) covers Creation to the 2000’s with an emphasis on the eras of the Bible, Talmud, Rishonim and Ahronim. This volume is especially useful because it allows the reader to choose from 4 levels of detail. Timeline 1 is a simple 1-page summary. Timelines 2 and 3 (8-page and 14-page charts) position major Rabbinic texts in the context of major Jewish historical events. Timeline 4 (the bulk of the book) provides year-by-year details on Rabbinic writings and Jewish history. (REFERENCE OVERSIZE DS 114 K34 2005)

A Timeline of Jewish Texts is a 1-page chart highlighting the major Rabbinic accomplishments in each century in the last 2300+ years. The texts are classified by category: Bible (commentaries and translations); Mishna, Talmud and commentaries; Law Codes, Liturgy, Thought and Ethics, Mysticism, and History.

The Timetables of Jewish History: a Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in Jewish History by Judah Gribetz (Simon & Schuster, 1993) covers Jewish history from the events of Genesis up to the 1990’s, year by year or decade by decade. For each time period, this volume provides 5 parallel columns showing
1) Jewish cultural milestones including Rabbinic and literary accomplishments,
what was happening to 2) the Jews of Europe,
3)the Jews in the Middle East, and
4) Jews in the Americas, and
5) what was happening in the secular world.
The juxtaposition is quite striking—for example, in the year 1135 “Samuel ben Meir… authors a commentary on the Torah that supplements that of his grandfather and teacher, Rashi” and “Henry I of England conquers Normandy back from his brother Robert” (p. 113) (REFERENCE OVERSIZE DS 114 G74 1993)

Timelines for the History of Judaism This easy-to-use set of charts emphasizes history. Hypertext links provide details about selected Rabbinic texts.

Dor L’Dor: A Year-By-Year Graphic Timeline of Jewish History From Creation to the Present by Ephraim Waxman (Feldheim, 2006) is a full-color 60-page fold-out chart. This volume emphasizes Rabbinic personalities and the writing of Rabbinic texts, against the background of Jewish history and world events. The graphic format makes this volume useful for teenage students (ERC OVERSIZE DS 114 W38 2006)

“The Generations of the Tannaim andthe Amoraim”, a chapter in Adin Steinsaltz’s The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition: A Reference Guide (Israeli Institute for Talmudic Publications, 1989) provides charts listing Tannaim and Amoroaim by name, date, and generation—juxtaposed with concurrent Eretz Israel and Babylonian historial events/personalities and world events. (REFERENCE OVERSIZE BM 503.5 s652 1989)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Naming children after Alexander the Great

Question: What is the source of the legend that during the Second Temple era the Jews promised Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.E.) that they would name their children after him?

Answer: The earliest source for this legend that I could locate is the work Sefer Yosipon. According to Encyclopedia Judaica [2007 ed., v.11, p.461-462] Sefer Yosipon (also known as Josippon) is an anonymous history of the Second Temple era that was composed in Hebrew during the 10th century in southern Italy. During the Middle Ages the work was mistakenly ascribed to the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (c.37 – after 100 C.E.) and became known as Yosipon (a Jewish-Greek form of Josephus). In the scholarly edition of Sefer Yosipon edited by David Flusser [Yerushalayim, Mosad Byalik, 1978-1980] the story is found in v.1, p.56-57, lines 37-45. Alexander is visiting the Temple in Jerusalem. After proclaiming his belief in the God of the Jews, Alexander asks the Jewish High Priest to create a memorial for Alexander in the Temple. Alexander will donate gold which will be crafted into a statue in his likeness. The statue will remain in the Temple to honor Alexander. The High Priest replied that it was forbidden to maintain a statue in the Temple but that Alexander’s memory would not be forgotten. All the priestly children born that year in Judea and Jerusalem would be named Alexander. Eventually, these children would serve in the Temple, thereby providing a memorial for Alexander. Flusser comments (ibid., p.56, note to line 41) that a similar story was recorded by the German poet Rudolf von Ems (c.1200-1254) in his work Alexanderroman. In von Ems’ version no mention is made of Alexander requesting a statue. Out of gratitude to Alexander’s kindness to them, the Jews spontaneously make the offer that henceforth one member of the Levitical house will always bear the name Alexander. Flusser thinks it likely that in recording their slightly different versions of the legend, both Yosipon and von Ems were drawing on a shared source that is at present lost to us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How To Access the Bar Ilan Responsa Database

Question: How can I access the Bar Ilan database from campus and from home?

Answer: JTS Campus Access: The Bar Ilan database, sometimes called the Responsa database, is available as a web-based resource from the Available Online section of the JTS Library’s website. Click on E-books or E-Reference. Then click on Bar Ilan Responsa Project

This database is also available as a CD-ROM in the Reference section of the JTS Library, at selected computers.

Off-Campus Access (JTS students, faculty and staff): The web-based version of the Bar Ilan database is also available via the “Remote Access” link on the JTS Library’s website. Input the same username and password that you use for your JTS email. The next page will give you access to all The Library’s subscription databases; click on “Responsa” for the Bar Ilan database.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Recent Jewish Studies Research

Question: Where can I find an overview of the various scholarly approaches in recent research on Jewish liturgy?

Answer: Lawrence A. Hoffman’s essay “Jewish Liturgy and Jewish Scholarship: Method and Cosmology” in The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies (Oxford University Press, 2002) p. 733-755 presents a survey of research in Jewish liturgy, focusing on the attitudes and points of view of the various scholars. In addition to earlier studies, publications of the last 20 years are presented.

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies provides a similar “snapshot of the current state of research” (p. xiii) in each of 39 sub-disciplines, ranging from Biblical studies and medieval Jewish history to Jewish mysticism, Jewish music, and demography of the Jews. This handbook will help a student evaluate a particular scholar’s work against the backdrop of the accomplishments of his fellow researchers.

Most chapters include an introduction to the field, a survey of early research (19th and early/mid 20th century publications), as well as a detailed emphasis on more recent scholarship. Many essays also suggest areas that have not been well-studied, in the hope that future scholars will investigate those topics further. Each chapter concludes with a paragraph highlighting the strengths of “Suggested Reading,” and a more extensive “Bibliography.”

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies is located in the JTS Library’s Reference collection at: REF BM 70 O95 2002.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Finding Articles About the Tanakh (Part 2 - RAMBI)

Question: Where can I find articles about a specific passage in the Tanakh?

Answer: [Continued from blog posting Nov 12, 2009 which focused on ATLA/ATLAS]. Another quick way to identify scholarly articles and essays on biblical passages is via the RAMBI Index of Articles on Jewish Studies.

1. Use the SUBJECT option from the drop-down list.

2. Type the name of the Biblical book in either English or Hebrew (with the Hebrew alphabet) like this:
Genesis (Book of) or
(בראשית (ספר

For best results, do not use transliterated Hebrew book names, like “bereshit”, when using the SUBJECT option. Exceptions: KOHELTH, OVADIAH.

3. Type the chapter (or range of chapters) after the name of the book:
Ezekiel (book of): 8
יחזקאל (ספר) ח - יב

Specifying Verses: You can not specify verses using the SUBJECT option. However, if particular verses are mentioned in the title of the article, it is easy to notice those articles when you peruse the listing of article titles.

You can search for articles on specific verses using a KEYWORD SEARCH; they will be in your results list only if that chapter/verse combination happens to be in the title of the article.

General Articles:
Articles on the entire Five Books of Moses are listed under the subjects PENTATEUCH or תורה .
Articles on the entire Tanakh are listed under the subjects: BIBLE or BIBLE: EXEGESIS or מקרא . Additional general articles are listed under: PROPHETS, נביאים , כתובים

Languages: Using English search terms will retrieve a listing of articles in all European languages, including Russian. Using Hebrew will retrieve a listing of articles in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Journals and books included: RAMBI’s unique strength is its emphasis on Jewish and Israeli publications such as: Dine Israel, Dor le Dor, Hebraic Political Studies, Iberia Judaica, Jewish History, Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Niv Hamidrashia, Shdemot, and most significantly, the multitude of Hebrew language publications.

RAMBI’s wide range of European-language journals are similar to those in ATLA/ATLAS, from Journal of Biblical Studies to the Annual of the Japanese Biblical Institute. In addition, RAMBI includes articles in feschriften and other essay collections.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Name, Title, or Honorific?

I am a researcher involved in an oral history project and am dealing with an individual who is referred to as: “HaRav HaGaon, HaTzaddik, Avraham HaLevi Jungreis”. I suspect that some of these words may in fact be honorifics rather than part of the subject’s actual name. Can you help me to determine if this is so?


Here is how this mixture of name, title, and honorifics breaks down:

HaRav = the Rabbi
HaGaon = the Genius
HaTzaddik = the Righteous
Avraham = [given name]
HaLevi = the Levite [meaning: from the tribe of Levi but not a Kohen (priestly family)]
Jungreis = [family name]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finding Articles About the Tanakh

Question: Where can I find articles about a specific passage in the Tanakh?
Answer: A quick way to find scholarly articles on Biblical verses is the Scriptural Index in the ATLA/ATLAS database [access details below].

1. Choose SCRIPTURES from the blue band at the top of the screen. You will be presented with a list of Biblical books. (Clicking on any of the books will retrieve ALL the articles about that book, a list much too long to be useful)

2. Click on EXPAND to be presented with a choice of chapters within that book
3.Click on EXPAND again next to chapter of your choice, to get a choice of verses.
4. Click on the desired verse number to finally retrieve a list of relevant articles.

Note the options in the left-hand column NARROW RESULTS BY: SUBJECT (on the green bar). You will see headings specifying a range of verses in the Biblical book. For example, “Bible. Genesis 12-25”. Clicking on this heading will retrieve articles covering all those verses, as a group.

An important “subject” option is the PEER REVIEWED specification. Clicking this option will limit your results list to articles published in refereed journals. This means the articles have been screened and approved by experts in that academic discipline before publication is permitted. Although some scholars have been dissatisfied with this process, its goal is to ensure that only quality scholarship is being published.

An alternate method of retrieving peer reviewed articles is in right-hand column of the screen: LIMIT YOUR RESULTS (on the green bar). Check the SCHOLARLY (PEER REVIEWED) JOURNALS box, and then click UPDATE RESULTS (on the blue rectangle).

As always in ATLA/ATLAS, some articles will be full-text, while others will appear only as citations. Full-text articles are viewable via Adobe PDF software, and have PDF Full Text right after the citation.

Please note that ATLA/ATLAS, compiled by the American Theological Libraries Association, includes journals published by all world religions, as well as by academic institutions. For example: Jewish Bible Quarterly, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Trinity Journal, Journal of Biblical Literature, Conservative Judaism, Mennonite Quarterly Review, Anglican Theological Review. Therefore the authors’ attitudes represent a wide variety of interests and viewpoints.


ATLA/ATLAS is available via JTS campus computers from the AVAILABLE ONLINE page. JTS students and faculty can access this database remotely.

To be continued in the future with a posting on Using RAMBI to Find Articles About the Tanakh.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Checking Lettuce for Bugs - Video Tutorial

In order to properly observe the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) I want to check my lettuce for bugs before eating. I have read descriptions about how this should be done but I am still unsure how to do it. Would you, please, direct me to an online video that shows the procedure?

You may find the following video helpful: It was produced by the Star-K kashrut organization and it depicts the procedure for checking lettuce for bugs. Helpful tips for how to best do this examination are given. Other Star-K bug-checking videos are found here: Happy hunting!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Synagogue Records from Europe

Have you access to synagogue records in Europe for genealogical research?

Our Library holds a selection of "Pinkasim" or community record books (manuscripts), which usually list births, marriages and deaths, for individual towns in Eastern Europe.

You can find them listed in our catalog by doing an ADVANCED SEARCH In LIMIT SEARCH TO choose the FORMAT of manuscripts. Search the word: pinkas or פנקס

To cast a wider net, do a BASIC SEARCH. Specify SUBJECT BEGINS WITH from the drop-down menu. In the text-box, type: pinkasim .

Some of the listings you retrieve will be community record books with vital statistics.
For example:
Pinkas of the Venice synagogue (1611-1833)
Memorbuch from Mainz, Germany (1586-1837)

You will also retrieve listings of record books of various types of organizations:

Pinkas min ha-Havurah Magide Tehilim u-Gemilut Hasadim (Kiev, 1895)
[record book from the society of those who recite Psalms and perform acts of loving kindness]
Pinkas Hevrah Mishnayot (Siladi, Romania, 1907-1933)
[record book of the Mishna society]
Pinkas Ozer Dalim (Venice1641-1726)
[record book of those who help the poor]
Minute Book of the Budapest Chevra Shas (1907-1932)
Pinkas nedarim (Mantua, Italy, 1753)
[record book of vows]
Pinkas hevra kadisha (Lissa, Poland, 1833-1854)
[record book of the burial society]

One of the special collections in the JTS Archives is the French Jewish Communities Record Group, including documents from 1648-1946. This collection holds many record books, such as a Taxes roll of the Jews in the district of Metz in 1785.
This collection is described in An Inventory to the French Jewish Communities Record Group (1648-1946) by Roger S. Kohn (1991) Z6373 F7 Y47 1997

Holocaust survivors from many European towns have published memorial books which include local histories, lists of former residents who were killed, and lists of those who survived. The JTS Library holds many such memorial books. The New York Public Library has a collection of digitized yizkor books.

Other resources for Eastern European genealogical documentation are:
The Genealogy Institue at the Center for Jewish History

Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova; Pages From the Past and Archival Inventories, by Miriam Wiener et. al. (1999) DS 135 U4 W45 1999

Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages From the Past and Archival Inventories, by Miriam Wiener et. al. (1997) CS877 J4 W45 1997

Some Archival Sources for Ukrainian-Jewish Genealogy, compiled by Aleksander Kronik and Sallyann A. Sack (1997) DS135 U4 K76 1997

Sources on Polish Jewry at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People. Compiled by Hanna Volovici, et. al. (2004) Z6373 P7 S68 2004

New DVDs in the JTS Library

In this season of film festivals, enjoy your own, personal Jewish and Israeli film festival by viewing the following newly arrived DVD’s in the JTS Library Collection. All DVDs are located in the Asher Audio-Visual Library and circulate for one week. They can also be viewed on our in-house DVD players.

Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (2008)-Directed by Roberta Grossman. In English, Hebrew and Hungarian with subtitles in English. The first documentary feature about Hannah Senesh, Blessed Is the Match tells the life story of the Hungarian-born poet and Holocaust heroine, who was only 22 when she parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe in 1944 as part of a rescue mission to save the Jews of Hungary, the only outside rescue mission for Jews during the Holocaust. Hannah parachuted behind enemy lines, was captured, tortured and ultimately executed by the Nazis. Dramatizations, interviews, photographs, newsreel footage, letters, and diary entries are used to illuminate Senesh's early years, her immigration to Palestine and her involvement in the perilous rescue mission.With unprecedented access to the Senesh family archive, this powerful story unfolds through the writings and photographs of Hannah and her mother, Catherine Senesh. (DVD 153)

Defiance (2008)-Directed by Edward Zwick and starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. The deep forests of Poland and Belorussia are the domain of the occupying Germans during World War II. Four Jewish brothers, the Bielskis, go into these forests after the murder of their parents by local authorities working with the German invaders. They undertake the impossible task of foraging for food, weapons and survival, not just for themselves but for a large mass of Jews fleeing from the German war machine. The brothers, living with the fear of discovery, must contend with neighboring Soviet partisans and deciding whom to trust. They take on the responsibility of guardians and motivate hundreds of women, men, children and elderly to join their fight against the Nazi regime while hiding in makeshift homes in the dark, cold, unforgiving forest. At the same time, the brothers turn a band of war defectors into powerful freedom fighters. At the war’s end, 1200 members of the Bielski group survived. Their children and grandchildren number in the tens of thousands. Based on the book “Defiance: The Bielski Partisans” by Nechama Tec. (DVD 150)

Hatunah Me’uheret/Late Marriage (2001)-Written and directed by Dover Kasashvili and starring Lior Ashkenazi and Ronit Elkabetz. In Georgian and Hebrew with English subtitles. Zaza is a 31-year-old bachelor Georgian/Israeli Ph.D. student at Tel Aviv University whose family is trying to arrange a marriage for him. Unknown to them, he is secretly dating a 34-year-old divorcée, Judith, who has a 6-year-old daughter. Zaza must choose between his family traditions or his love in this comedy/melodrama. (DVD 149)

Live and Become (2008)-Written and directed by Radu Mihaileanu and starring Moshe Agazai, Mosche Abebe, Sirak M. Sabahat, Yael Abecassis and Roschdy Zem. In French, Hebrew and Amharic with English subtitles. The story begins in 1985 when, in a wrenching opening scene set in a squalid refugee camp in the Sudan, a mother forces her weeping 9 year old son to leave her side and join the transport of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the secret Israeli airlift code-named Operation Moses. The boy, too young to understand that his mother is probably saving his life, is substituted for Solomon, the dead son of a Falasha woman, who agrees to take him. Under the provisions of Israel’s Law of Return, those Ethiopian refugees with Jewish parents and grandparents could settle in Israel and become citizens; thousands emigrated. The enigmatic final words of the boy’s mother, “Live and become,” resonate through the rest of the film. Based on real events. (DVD 145)

Waltz with Bashir (2008)-Written and directed by Ari Folman. In Hebrew with English subtitles. An animated film about a real person and real events. After not being able to recall the time he spent on an Israeli Army mission during the Lebanon War, Ari attempts to unravel the mystery by traveling around the world to interview old friends and comrades. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, his memory begins to return in illustrations that are surreal. At the end of the animated film, a very short part of the film shows real people. The film includes disturbing images of atrocities and violence as well as brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content. Winner of the Israeli Film Academy’s award for the best film of 2008, and the USA’s Golden Globe for best foreign language film of 2008. (DVD 151)

Watermarks (2004)-Written and directed by Yaron Zilberman. In English, Hebrew and German with subtitles in English. The story of the champion women swimmers of the legendary Jewish sports club, Hakoah Vienna. Hakoah was founded in 1909 in response to the notorious Aryan Paragraph, which forbade Austrian sports clubs from accepting Jewish athletes. Its founders were eager to popularize sport among a community renowned for such great minds as Freud, Mahler and Zweig, but traditionally alien to physical recreation. Hakoah rapidly grew into one of Europe's biggest athletic clubs, while achieving astonishing success in many diverse sports. In the 1930s Hakoah's best-known triumphs came from its women swimmers, who dominated national competitions in Austria. After the Anschluss, in 1938, the Nazis shut down the club, but the swimmers all managed to flee the country before the war broke out, thanks to an escape operation initiated by Hakoah's functionaries. Sixty-five years later, director Yaron Zilberman meets the members of the swimming team in their homes around the world, and arranges for them to have a reunion in their old swimming pool in Vienna, a journey that evokes memories of youth, femininity, and strengthens lifelong bonds. Told by the swimmers, now in their eighties. (DVD 148)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jews in Sports

In honor of the World Series –

Would you suggest a few books that discuss Jewish participation in sports, especially in the United States?

Here are some books that might interest you:

Gurock, Jeffrey S.
Judaism's encounter with American sports.
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c2005
GV709.6 .G87 2005 [CIRC]

Mendelsohn, Ezra.
Jews and the sporting life.
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2008
GV709.6 .J47 2008 [CIRC]

Ribalow, Harold Uriel.
The Jew in American sports.
New York : Hippocrene Books, 1985
GV697.A1 R5 1985 [CIRC]

Riess, Steven A.
Sports and the American Jew.
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 1997
GV709.6 .S76 1997 [CIRC]

Siegman, Joseph.
Jewish sports legends : the international Jewish sports Hall of Fame.
Washington : Brassey's, c1997
OVR GV697.A1 S4797 1997 [CIRC]

Silverman, B. P. Robert Stephen.
The 100 greatest Jews in sports : ranked according to achievement.
Lanham, Md. ; Oxford : Scarecrow Press, 2003
GV697.A1 S522 2003 [CIRC]

Wechsler, Bob.
Day by day in Jewish sports history.
Jersey City, NJ : KTAV ; [New York] : in association with the American Jewish Historical Society, c2008
GV709.6 .W43 2008 [CIRC]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Decoding Dead Sea Scrolls Designations


What exactly is 1Q22 I 1-2 ? I know it is from one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but which one, and what do the letters and numbers mean? I also saw a reference to 1QDM – what is that?


To understand citations from Dead Sea Scrolls, it is helpful to segment the elements:

In this example, 1Q22 and 1QDM are two different ways of referring to the same scroll.

The first two elements, 1Q, identify the cave number and location: Qumran cave one.

Knowing the possible cave (or site) abbreviations will help you distinguish the elements of the citation. Here is a selected list of additional sites where Judean Desert documents have been found:

There are multiple methods of identifying the individual manuscripts. Each document found at a site has been assigned a unique number. Thus 1Q22 means manuscript number 22 found at Qumran cave number 1.

An alternate method of identifying a manuscript is by using a standard abbreviation for its contents. This standard abbreviation is often based on a transliteration of the Hebrew name for the text. In this example, DM is the abbreviation for Dibre Mosheh, or Sayings of Moses. In some cases, the abbreviation is based on a description in a European language. In addition, some of Dead Sea Scrolls are also known by a “popular” title.

Here is a sample list of typical names of Dead Sea Scroll texts, and their abbreviations:

Many texts have been found in multiple copies. These copies are distinguished from one another with a superscript after the text designation. For example, these three different copies of Hodayot were all found in Qumran cave 4:

4QHa (also known as 4Q427)
4QHb (also known as 4Q428)
4QHc (also known as 4Q429)

The next element in your citation is Roman numeral I, referring to column one of the scroll. The final element, the Arabic numerals 1-2, refer to lines one and two, within the specified column.

There are many exceptions to these generalities, in part because the field of Dead Sea Scroll research is still actively evolving. For more a more detailed explanation of scroll nomenclature, extensive lists of Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, and the texts themselves, please consult the following sources:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew Aramaic and Greek texts with English translations. James Charlesworth, ed. (1994- )
REF BM 487 A3 1994a
[Document numbers and document names listed at the end of each volume]

Encyclopedia Of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Lawrence Schiffman and James VanderKam, eds. (2000)
REF Oversize BM 487 E53 2000
[Document lists and indexes in volume 2]

The SBL Handbook of Style for Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies. Alexander, Patrick, et al, eds. (1999)
Reserve PN147 .S26 1999
[8.3.5 Dead Sea Scrolls and related Texts, and Appendix F: Texts From the Judean Desert]

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert . Emanuel Tov, ed. (1955-)
REF Oversize BM 487 A1

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Source of Quote

I am trying to locate the source of the following quote which I have heard attributed to the Torah: "One person's candle is the light for many." Can you assist me?

I could not find that exact quote, but while looking in Joseph L. Baron's A Treasury of Jewish Quotations (J. Aronson, 1985) I found a reference (found on p.279 and assigned the number 489.20 in Baron's work) to the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabat, p.122a where it says "ner le-ehad ner le-me'ah" meaning "a candle for one is a candle for one hundred", perhaps that is the quote you are searching for.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Wonder working rabbis" and "Golems"

Would you recommend works that will assist me in learning about "wonder-working rabbis" and/or about "golems"?

In regards to "wonder-working rabbis" (often known as Baale Shem - "masters of the name", referring to their usage of God's name to effect magic), I would recommend the following titles:

- Etkes, I. The Besht : magician, mystic, and leader. [Hanover : Brandeis University Press, published by University Press of New England, 2005].
- Rosman, Murray Jay. Founder of Hasidism : a quest for the historical Ba’al Shem Tov.[Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, 1996].

Even though these works deal primarily with Rabbi Yisrael Ba'al Shem Tov, they also give important overviews of the Ba'al Shem phenomenon in general. These items will also have citations which you can trace back to other important sources.

In regards to research on the "golem" phenomenon I would recommend the following titles:

- Scholem, Gershom Gerhard. "The Idea of the Golem" in: On the Kabbalah and its symbolism. [New York : Schocken Books, 1965], p.158-204.
- Idel, Moshe. Golem : Jewish mystical and magical traditions on the artificial anthropoid. [Albany, NY : State University of New York Press, 1990].

These texts contain extensive coverage of this topic and can point you to other sources that discuss the matter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tashlikh on Hoshana Rabah

The Jewish custom of tashlikh is recorded by Rabbi Mosheh Isserles (ReMA) in Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayim, chpt. 583, paragraph 2. Speaking about Rosh ha-Shanah, ReMA says: “[people] go to the river to say the verse ‘and throw (ve-tashlikh) all our sins into the depths of the sea etc.’ (cf. Micah 7:19)”. Mishnah Berurah (ibid., note 8) codifies that tashlikh should be done on the first day of Rosh ha-Shanah after the minhah service but before sunset. Mishnah Berurah also records the custom that if the first day of Rosh ha-Shanah falls on Shabbat, tashlikh should be performed on the second day of Rosh ha-Shanah in order to avoid any danger of transgressing Shabbat by carrying in a public domain. The contemporary expert in Jewish law (posek) Rabbi Gavriel Zinner quotes sources that state that if someone was unable to perform tashlikh on Rosh ha-Shanah they are allowed to do it throughout the Ten Days of Repentance (aseret yeme teshuvah) – see: Sefer Nite Gavriel : hilkhot Rosh ha-Shanah [Yerushalayim : 2001], chpt.69, paragraphs 15-16 and footnotes 25-28, p.424. Furthermore, Rabbi Zinner quotes many sources that indicate a custom to specifically perform tashlikh on the same day of the aseret yeme teshuvah as the penitential prayers (selihot) contain the responsive liturgical poem (pizmon) which incorporates the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (derived from Exodus 34:6-7) into its structure (either the fourth or fifth day of the aseret yeme teshuvah, depending on the year). Rabbi Betsalel Majersdorf, Technical Services Librarian at Jewish Theological Seminary, mentioned to me that he has recently become aware of a practice to specifically wait until after the aseret yeme teshuvah and recite tashlikh on the seventh day of Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabah. Rabbi Majersdorf was unaware of the source for this practice. I searched the literature but have also been unable to locate such a source. We would like to request that any readers of this blog who know of any sources on this matter please note them in the “comments” section. Thank you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reading Genesis Chapter 1 - different rites

Can you please direct us to recordings of the opening chapter of Genesis, creation of the world according to different Jewish rites?

The Library's Field Recordings from the Solomon Rowoswky Collection document recordings done in 1936 and 1938 in Eretz Israel. Rosowsky interviewed and recorded new immigrants and documented their liturgical chants. This collection was digitized and is available through The Library's Digital Library (

For the Yemenite tradition: performed by Shelomoh Hayim Kasar.

For the Kurdish tradition: performed by Barukh Shemu'el Mizrahi.

For the Babylonian tradition: performed by Yehezkel Batat.

For the Sefarad tradition in Jerusalem: There is no performer listed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The producer of a midwest radio program focusing on religion requested audio or video recordings of Gersom Scholem.

A 9-minute audio segment of Scholem speaking at Agnon's 70th birthday party in 1958 was published with volume 30 (2006) of Alpayim (אלפיים :כתב עת רב-תחומי לעיון, הגות וספרות), a Hebrew-language literary journal published by Am Oved. The recording is in the periodicals collection of the JTS Library.

A recording of a radio interview of Scholem with Dr. Sabine Berghahn, in German, is held in her private archive. This is noted in Creation and Re-creation in Jewish Thought: Festschrift in honor of Joseph Dan...edited by Rachel Elior and P. Schafter, 2005, page, 366, footnote 8.

Should you wish to air one of these audios, please obtain permission from the copyright holder.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Schottenstein edition of the Talmud

Note: The following question is a follow up to the one addressed in my blog-posting of Tuesday, September 29, 2009 entitled: "RaMBaN's commentary on the Pentateuch - a comparison of two English translations"

How does the English translation of the Talmud, published by Artscroll – Mesorah and known as the Schottenstein edition, compare to other English translations of the Talmud? Does Artscroll’s status as a publishing company aligned with Haredi Orthodox Judaism effect their translation?

In my opinion the Artscroll English translation of the Talmud is excellent for helping someone gain a basic understanding of the Talmud. Other translations (e.g. Soncino, Neusner) merely translate the Talmud – little in the way of explanation is given. The Talmud’s style is very terse and idiomatic. The myriad later commentaries on the Talmud often explain the same piece in variant ways. Also, the Talmud assumes that you are already familiar with many of the topics it discusses. Without extensive comments and notes, someone without prior experience who can not read the later commentaries, would be completely lost. The Artscroll edition is more than a translation – it is, as I believe they themselves call it, an “elucidation” that takes you step by step through the Talmud and explains the meaning of each line and how it fits into the discussion as a whole. The notes tell you critical information found in other parts of Rabbinic literature that you need in order to understand the topic at hand. The notes also summarize what the later commentaries say and explain some of the variant ways to understand each subject. No other English translation at present does anything like that (except perhaps for Steinsaltz’s English translation – but that is only available on a handful of tractates).
Of course any work that does what Artscroll does is going to inevitably leave the reader with the impression that their way of translating and interpreting a particular piece of Talmud is the only way. They try to alleviate this by, as I mentioned before, giving a few alternate approaches in their notes. However, they can not possibly give all possible approaches and even what they do give might confuse beginners. Furthermore, they only draw on traditional sources and do not take into account more modern approaches that might use textual and source criticism to facilitate understanding the text.
What I have said about the Talmud translation also applies to Artscroll’s RaSHI on Humash translation (and to their RaMBaN on Humash translation). As long as one keeps in mind the necessary limitations of such works (as mentioned above) they are excellent and unique resources.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Directions to Digital Dissertations

Question: Do you have a copy of Victoria Khiterer’s 2008 thesis from Brandeis University entitled “The Social and Economic History of Jews in Kiev before Febrary 1917”

Answer: We have access to a digital copy of all 453 pages of this dissertation through our subscription database ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

This database includes over 1 million dissertations in the humanities and social sciences. Dissertations dated from the late 1990’s to the present are generally available full-text. Most earlier dissertations are included only as abstracts or citations.

Jewish studies dissertations are well-represented in this database: a search for the keyword “Talmud” retrieves 190 dissertations; a search for keyword “Jewish education” retrieves 224 dissertations; a search for keyword “Judaism” retrieves over 1500 dissertations.

Most of the dissertations are from United States and Canadian universities. Selected dissertations are from Israeli universities; the dissertation text itself is often in Hebrew, although the titles are listed in English.

More than 200 Jewish Theological Seminary dissertations are included, of which about half are available full-text. (Additional JTS dissertations are available in printed format in the JTS Library).

To access ProQuest Dissertations from a JTS campus computer, use the link on The Library’s “Available Online” page. It is in the “E-Books” section.
To access ProQuestion Dissertations from your personal computer, JTS students and faculty should use the “Remote Access” link which is listed on The Library’s web page under “Library Quick Links.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

RaMBaN's commentary on the Pentateuch - a comparison of two English translations

Question: I am interested in studying RaMBaN's (Nahmanides') commentary to the Pentateuch. I have been told that two English translations of this commentary have been published - one by Rabbi Charles B. Chavel [New York: Shilo Pub. House, 1971-1976] and one by Artscroll [Brooklyn, N.Y. : Mesorah, 2004-]. Would you assist me in evaluating which is the right translation for me?

Answer: The Artscroll version is much more extensive and user friendly. It uses Chavel’s writings as one of its sources. It contains the text of the Pentateuch in Hebrew and English; the text of RaSHI in Hebrew; the text of Targum Onkeles in Aramaic; and the text of RaMBaN's commentary in Hebrew and English. RaMBAN’s commentary is presented in Hebrew with nekudot - both as one running text and in an elucidated form in which a few words of RaMBAN’s Hebrew are quoted followed by their translation and elucidation. Chavel’s work only contains the translation of RaMBaN's commentary (and Chavel’s notes) - not the original Hebrew or any of the other texts that Artscroll includes. Chavel did publish RaMBaN’s original Hebrew text together with Chavel’s notes in a separate edition [Yerushalayim : Mosad ha-Rav Kuk, 1959]. Artscroll’s translation also seems to have more extensive notes than Chavel provides in his English translation (the notes in Chavel’s Hebrew edition seem to be more extensive than in his English edition).
On the other hand, Chavel has an index, Artscroll does not have one in the volumes I saw. The Chavel edition is already complete in 5 volumes. The Artscroll edition is due for completion (in 7 volumes) in March 2010 with the publication of the volume for Va-yikra. Chavel seems to translate the RaMBaN’s commentary in its entirety. Artscroll’s translation skips some sections that are kabbalistic (they do print the entire Hebrew original and they do tell you what they are skipping).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Jewish Bookplates

In answer to an inquiry about Jewish Bookplates by a student of Information Science at Bar Ilan University, Sharon Lieberman Mintz, Curator of Jewish Art at JTS Library writes:

The bookplate collection of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary was already underway in the early twentieth century. A Library list from 1940 indicates that we possessed 47 bookplates at that time. The collection grew gradually over the years but was significantly enhanced in the last decade of the twentieth century with the purchase of a collection of 410 bookplates from Sotheby’s in June 1996 and the extraordinary acquisition in March 1997 of 2100 bookplates from the private collection of Leah Mishkin. Today, the Library’s holdings consist of over 2600 bookplates. The Library’s collection of bookplates features the bookplates of individual and institutional Jewish book collectors from around the world. It is particularly strong in bookplates with Judaic imagery. The Library possess many rare examples, including the bookplate created for Isaac Mendes by the artist Benjamin Levi in 1746, one of the first known ex libris created for a Jewish patron and designed by a Jewish artist. In addition, numerous famous artists are represented, including bookplates by Hermann Struck and Ephraim Moses Lilien. Known as the "father of Jewish bookplates," Lilien was one of the first illustrators to create ex libris with distinctive Jewish motifs.

Today, the the majority of Library’s holdings are cataloged in our on-line Aleph system. They are also digitized and available on-line at the following site:

Note that when it lists 10 bookplates it actually means 10 Albums of bookplates. The volumes are divided between private individuals and public institutions and within that division are listed alphabetically. You are welcome to page through each album . The cataloging for each bookplate is reached through the metadata button above the images

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hasidism and Mitnagdim

This past summer, I had the opportunity to learn about Hasidsim and Mitnagdim. We started out by discussing the role of the Ba'al Shem Tov (Besht) in the founding of Hasidsim. Scholars debate the nature of the role that he played in founding this movement. One opinion maintains that the Besht began teaching to a small group of followers, the "inner circle," and that then it was those of this inner circle who went out and spread the teachings of the Besht to the larger population. This serves as a contrast to the idea that the Besht went out and preached to the masses. (For more information about the Shivchei ha-Besht, a primary source concerning the Besht, see this previous post).

We then went on to discuss the founding of the Lubavitch movement, by its founder R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi. To get an example of the teachings of Habad, we looked at a small section of the Tanya, technically titled Likutei Amurim, but termed the Tanya because of the first word with which it starts. Today, the Tanya gets widely studied by Habad Hasidim.

We then moved on to study the Mitnagdim, those who for various reasons opposed the emergence of the Hasidic movement. One accusation: the Hasidim allegedly performed a type of handstand before praying! Other concerns raised included the de-emphasis on scholarly learning in favor of worship of G-d. Associated with the opposition stood the Vilna Gaon. Again, here arises the question as to the nature of his involvement in the dispute, but sources indicate that he played a role. His student, R' Hayyim of Volozhin, also disagreed with the Hasidic movement, but did so less strongly.

Prior to this, I hadn't known much about the history of the emergence of Hasidism, so I found it fascinating to learn about this part of our history, which is part of our collective heritage.

Some of the readings for the course included:
Rosman, Moshe. Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the Historical Ba'al Shem Tov. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
Hundert, Gershon David. Essential Papers on Hasidism. New York: New York University Press, 1991.
Scholem, Gershon. The Messianic idea in Judaism and other essays on Jewish spirituality. New York: Schocken Books, 1995.
Etkes, Immanuel. The Besht: Magician, Mystic, and Leader. Hanover: University Press of New England, 2005.
Etkes, Immanuel. The Gaon of Vilna: The Man and His Image. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
Rapoport-Albert, Ada. Hasidism Reappraised. London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1996.

Help with researching Jewish genealogy

Question: Are there any companies or individuals that one can hire to assist in researching a Jewish family's genealogy?

Answer: I would recommend checking the website: The website contains many helpful links and databases that can assist in tracing ancestry and roots. There are also discussion groups that you can join. The people who belong to the discussion groups will probably be able to assist you in choosing a company or individual who will be able to assist you with this research. is another website that might be of assistance in these matters. At the following website I found a list of people and companies that specialize in researching Jewish genealogy:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Question: I am looking for information (written and visual) for a short presentation on Sukkot around the world. My audience is a small group of Seniors at a local JCC.

Answer: The classic resource is Philip Goodman’s The Sukkot and Simhat Torah Anthology (Phila, JPS, 1973). The book includes a little bit of everything, and is most likely available in your local public or synagogue library.

I also suggest The Jewish Catalog by Richard Siegel (Phila., JPS, 1973). Check the sections on The Four Species (p. 73) and Sukkot (p. 126).

Written resources on the Internet:

Jewish Heritage Online Magazine’s Tishrei entry provides short explanations of the holiday’s laws and customs, stories with relevant themes, and some visuals.

My Jewish Learning provides basic information about Sukkot.

Sukkot Humor

Visual resources on the Internet:

JTS’s Holiday Image Databank:
The vibrant images at this site include an 18th century German sukkah decoration, a 19th century Italkan sukkah decoration, and a gentleman holding a lulav and esrog from a 1709 Corfu mahzor.

Photos of unusual sukkot: click here and here.

Photos of a wide variety of sukkot, including one for american soldiers in Iraq, and one based on a Navajo shade structure in a Utah desert.

Photos demonstrating how to shake the lulav and esrog:

Audio resources on the Internet:

From the Israeli National Sound Archives, Sukkot music from Jewish communities in India, Afganistan, and the Hasidim; Samaritan Torah reading on for Sukkot

From the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University:

This is a recording of folk songs, and Hasidic and Yemenite music for Sukkot. This recording includes a Sholom Aleichem story about Sukkot, in Yiddish.

Video Resources on the Internet:

A variety of Sukkot videos, some serious, some light.

The Hebrew term for a car engine's exhaust manifold

Question: If I am having a problem with the exhaust manifold on my car's engine with what Hebrew term would I refer to it in order to direct an Israeli auto mechanic to take a look at it?

Answer: According to the Hebrew-English visual dictionary entitled: Milon Hazuti : Ivri-Angli [Yerushalayim : Karta, 1992 - p.404] the Hebrew term for a car engine's exhaust manifold is סַעֶפֶת-פְּלִיטָה (sa'efet-pelitah).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Videos of the Shekhitah procedure

Shekhitah – the slaughter of animals done according to halakhah (Jewish law) is an integral part of kashrut (dietary halakhah). Shekhitah is a complicated procedure that requires extensive hands-on training in order to master. The website, which contains lectures and articles by Yeshiva University rabbis and professors, provides a glimpse into the world of shekhitah in the following videos:

In these videos, the shekhitah procedure for birds is shown, along with parts of the melikhah (salting to remove blood) procedure. Aspects of bird anatomy used in the identification of kosher bird species are commented on. “Meat eggs” (eggs that are found in a chicken’s body after it has been slaughtered) are shown and the halakhic implications of these eggs are discussed.

Note: the videos may not start automatically, you may need to click the download button in order to see them.
Note: the videos contain graphic images that may not be suitable for all viewers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fasting for Atonement

A patron requested citations to sources in Rabbinic literature that discuss the practice of fasting in order to gain atonement for sins. Here are some sources that I found. Please, feel free to “join the conversation” by adding additional sources in the “Comments” section.
- Yerushalmi, Betsah 2:8, s.v. a[mar] R[abi] Hananyah paam ahat yatset.
- Bavli, Hagigah 22b, s.v. amru kol yamav husharu shinav mipne taaniyotav.
- Ibid., Moed Katan 25a, s.v. de-yoma had ithafikha.
- Ibid., Bava Metsia 33a, s.v. yativ Rav Hisda arbain taanita
- Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayim, chpt.334, paragraph 26, s.v. Hagah… ve-im avar ve-hilel tsarikh le-hitanot.
- Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah, chpt.185, paragraph 4, s.v. Hagagh…ve-im pirash mimenah.
- Shulhan Arukh, Orakh Hayim, chpt.568, paragraph 4.
- Shneur Zalman, of Lyady, 1745-1813. Likute AmarimTanya, Igeret ha-Teshuvah, chpt.1-3.
- Vidas, Elijah ben Moses de, 16th cent. Reshit Hokhmah, shaar ha-Teshuvah.
- Ricchi, Raphael Immanuel ben Abraham Hai, 1688-1743. Mishnat Hasidim, masekhet Teshuvah.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I need primary sources to document American Jewish public opinion in the 1890’s. How can I identify which Jewish magazines and newspapers were published in the US during that decade?

Answer 1:
The American Jewish Yearbook includes a “List of Jewish Periodicals published in the United States” in each volume. The 1899/1900 Yearbook (vol. 1) lists magazines and newspapers published earlier in the 1800’s as well as [then] current publications. English, German, Hebrew and Yiddish weeklies, monthlies and dailies are listed.

Answer 2: The Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library has compiled a list of “Periodicals Published During the Decade of 1890-1899” in their microfilm collection (see page 4)

Many of the periodicals themselves have been microfilmed by the American Jewish Periodical Center in Cincinnatti as well as the New York Public Library. Use worldcat to identify libraries holding the periodicals.

Periodical holdings of The Jewish Theological Seminary Library are listed in our ALEPH catalog.
To search for periodicals, use ADVANCED SEARCH.
Specify TITLE in the FIELD TO SEARCH option.
Type the name of the periodical in the TYPE WORD OR PHRASE text box.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Batyah or Bityah

The name Batyah is a common Hebrew female given name. The source of the name is the daughter of Pharaoh who drew Mosheh from the water when he was an infant and raised him like a son. The midrash in Vayikra Rabah (chpt.1 , paragraph 3, s.v. ve-eleh bene Bityah) homiletically interprets her name as being composed of two words: “bat” and “Yah” meaning “daughter of God”. God says to Batyah that just as Mosheh was not her actual son but she called him son (and took care of him as one), so too, even though Batyah is not God’s daughter (i.e. she was not born a Jew), He refers to her as His daughter. Rabbi Betsalel Majersdorf, Technical Services Librarian at Jewish Theological Seminary, pointed me to the work Arukh ha-Shulhan by Rabbi Yehiel Mikhel Epstein. Rabbi Epstein opines (Arukh ha-Shulhan, Even ha-Ezer, chpt.129, “shemot nashim”, s.v. [b] Basha) that notwithstanding the common practice (and the homiletic teaching of the midrash) the proper pronunciation of this name is Bityah (with a hirik under the letter bet) and not Batyah (with a patah under the letter bet). He reasons that the only time this name is mentioned in the Bible is in Divre ha-Yamim I 4:18 where it is given as Bityah bat Par’oh. An edition of the Bible based on authoritative Masoretic sources (especially the Aleppo Codex) was printed by Mosad ha-Rav Kuk in 1977 under the editorship of Mordechai Breuer. I examined this edition and found that the reading was, indeed, Bityah.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jewish Emigration from Europe to South Africa

In the period of large Jewish emigration from Europe, from the late 1800s until Word War II, how many of Europe’s Jews chose to emigrate to the continent of Africa?

According to The Penguin Atlas of Diasporas [New York : Viking ; Penguin Group, 1995 – p.60] 23,00 Jews emigrated from Europe to Africa (specifically South Africa) between 1881 and 1900. Between 1901 and 1914 an additional 20,00 emigrated. From 1915 to 1930 the amount dropped to 15,00 and between 1931 and 1939 the amount fell even further, to 10,00. Altogether this adds up to 68,000 Jews emigrating from Europe to Africa between 1881 and 1939. By way of contrast, in that same time period 2,575,000 Jews emigrated from Europe to the United States of America [ibid.].

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Early Hebrew and Ladino Drama

Question: Do you know of a resource, a catalogue or list of
Hebrew, Spanish or Ladino drama from the 15th to the
18th century? I am looking specifically for evidence of scripts of purim plays and songs.

Answer: I would suggest you check the following resources:

Author: New York Public Library.
Title: List of dramas in the New York Public Library Relating to the Jews : and of Dramas in Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, and Judeo-German; together with essays on the Jewish stage / prepared by A.S. Freidus.
Imprint: New York : New York Public Library, 1907.
Published In: Bulletin of the New York Public Library. v. 9, no. 1 (January, 1907).

Call number at New York Public Library: *PAQ (New York Public Library (1895-), Reference Department. List of dramas)

Besso, Henry V. Dramatic literature of the Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries. New York : Hispanic Institute in the U.S., Secciãaon de Estudios Sefardãaies, 1947.117 p.
"Reprinted from the Bulletin Hispanique, vol. XXXIX-XLI [1937-1939]" Bibliography: p. [86]-111.

Sephardic Studies: A Research Bibliography, Incorporating Judezmo Language, Literature and Folkore and Historical Background by David M. Bunis (New York: Garland, 1981) is also an excellent resource for you. Four of its sections list bibliographies which may include music/purim plays in Hebrew or Ladino or Spanish: Literary Genres -Drama (p 91), Folksong, Folk Poetry and Folk Music (p. 105), Folk Drama (p. 146), and The Calendric Cycle…Purim (p. 160).

For additional information the following resources discuss early purim music and plays:

Dr. Edwin Serousi’s background notes to the CD:

The Sword of the Dove: Purim Songs in the Sephardi Tradition

Philip Goodman’s The Purim Anthology (Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1960) refers to quite a number of songs and dramas in chapter XI [Purim in Music], Chapter XVI [The History of Purim Parody in Jewish Literature] and chapter XVII [The History of Purim Plays]. Be sure to check the notes and bibliographies for each chapter.

Abraham Z. Idelsohn’s Jewish Music: Its Historical Development (New York: Schocken Books, 1967), gives a brief overview of early Purim theatre and song in Chapter XX: Badchonim (Merry-Makers) and Klezmorim (Music-Makers). He refers to the drama entitled Esther by Solomon Usque and Lazaro Gratiano (1567).

The following entry from the JTS Library catalog describes a Purim song from an 18th century Italian broadside:

Special Call no.: B (NS)PP21
Author: De la Bele Romanel, Avraham.
Title: ‫Pizmon le-Simḥat Purim. פזמון לשמחת פורים ... ‬
Imprint: [Italy : s.n., 17--?].

Descr.: 1 broadside : ill. (border design] ; 33 x 22 cm.
Gen. note ‫ סוג הגליון: שיר לפורים. ‬
‫ אנשים: המן, אסתר. ‬
‫ תחילת השיר: שמעו אלי כל העדה. ‬
Type of broadside: Festival poems and prayers and related items.
Abstract Italian hymn for Purim.

thetakeaway@jtslibrary: What is a "genizah"?

thetakeaway@jtslibrary: What is a "genizah"?

What is a "genizah"?

In an anonymous comment to a previous blog post (Wednesday, July 8, 2009 – “Photograph of Elkan Nathan Adler”) the question was raised: “What is “genizah”?”

The Encyclopedia Judaica defines ‘genizah” as follows:

"[A] place for storing books or ritual objects which have become unusable. The genizah was usually a room attached to the synagogue where books and ritual objects containing the name of God – which cannot be destroyed according to Jewish law – were buried when they wore out and could no longer be used in the normal ritual. As a result ancient synagogues can preserve books or sections thereof of great antiquity." [Encyclopedia Judaica, 2007 ed., v.7, p.460]

The particular genizah referred to in the blog post about Elkan Nathan Adler was the “Cairo Genizah”. The website of the Friedberg Genizah Project (, an organization that was started to facilitate research into the Cairo Genizah, explains the history and significance of this genizah thusly:

"The Cairo Genizah, mostly discovered late in the nineteenth century but still resurfacing in our own day, is a collection of over 200,000 fragmentary Jewish texts (which may well equal three times that number of folios). Many of these were stored in the loft of the ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat medieval Cairo [to the south-west of the modern city] between the 11th and 19th centuries ... The dark, sealed, room in the arid Egyptian climate contributed to the preservation of the documents, the earliest of which may go back to the eighth and ninth centuries … These manuscripts outline a 1,000-year continuum of Middle-Eastern history and comprise the largest and most diverse collection of medieval manuscripts in the world. The Genizah can be described as one of the greatest Jewish treasures ever found." [Friedberg Genizah Project -]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shortcut to Compositions in Gershon Ephros' Cantorial Anthology

Question: Does Gershon Ephros’ Cantorial Anthology include any works by Joseph Achron? How can I check this quickly without looking through every page of this 6-volume work?

Answer: Thirteen works composed or arranged by Achron are included in Ephros’ Anthology, located in volumes 2, 3, 4 and 6. To quickly find this type of information, use “An Index to Gershon Ephros’ Cantorial Anthology” prepared by Marsha Bryan Edelman in Musica Judaica (vol. II, no. 2 1978-79). The “Index of Composers, Arrangers, Collectors and Sources” will lead you directly to the volume and page of the compositions. There is also an “Index of Titles,” quickly leading you to the volume and page containing a particular prayer. For example, 6 settings of Alenu (by Cohon & Idelsohn, Ephros, Lewandowsky, Stark, and “traditional”) are listed as being in the volumes for Rosh Hashonoh, Shabbat, and Y’mot Hachol.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Translation of Arba'ah Turim

Question: Where can I find a translation of the Arba’ah Turim (also known as the Tur) of Rabenu Yaakov ben Asher (1270?–1340), a seminal work in the codification of halakhah (Jewish law)?

Answer: At present, a systematic translation seems to exist only for one small part of the Tur – the sub-section titled “Hilkhot Tsedakah” (laws of charity) found within the “Yoreh De’ah” (chpt.247-259) section of the Tur. The translation is part of a Hebrew Union College thesis from 1974. It is was written by Aharon Rozenberg and is titled: A translation of the laws of tzedakah in the Arba-ah turim by Jacob ben Asher and a comparison between the treatment of the laws of tzedakah in the Mishneh torah, the Arba-ah turim, and the Shulchan aruch.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Question: A nursing student writing a paper requested resources on Jewish religious/cultural beliefs and practices relevant to caring for seriously ill hospital patients, the deceased, and their families.

Answer: We suggested the following chapters from Jewish Pastoral Care: A Practical Handbook from Traditional and Contemporary Sources, 2nd ed, edited by Rabbi Dayle A. Friedman (Woodstock, VT, Jewish light Publishing, 2005):

"Jewish Spiritual Care in the Acute Care Hospital" by Rabbi Jeffrey M. Silberman, p. 225-242
"Walking in the Valley of the Shadow: Caring for the Dying and Their Loved Ones", by Rabbi Amy Eilberg, p. 374-399
"Grief and Bereavement" by Simcha Paul Raphael, p. 400-432.

Another relevant resource is: Jewish Ethics and the Care of End-of-Life Patients: A Collection of Rabbinical, Bioethical, Philosophical and Juristic Opinions edited by Peter Joel Hurwitz, Jacques Picard and Avraham Steinberg (Jersey City, NJ, KTAV in Association with the Institute for Jewish Studies, University of Basel, 2006)

Finding a Bet Din

Where can I find a competent rabbinical court (bet din) that will assist me in resolving a legal dispute relating to Jewish civil law?

The Beth Din of America ( is a well established (founded in 1960) and respected rabbinical court that provides service in many matters, including Jewish civil law. They have helpful resources on their website ( such as a “Layman’s Guide to Dinei Torah (Beth Din arbitration proceedings)", and a document that details their own “Rules and Procedures”.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Accessing Nineteenth Century Jewish Studies Journal Articles

Students, scholars and librarians may have been caught up in the frenzy of digital access to full-text articles during the last decade. However, it is important not to lose sight of "oldies but goodies" from the world of printed article indices. One such tool is Moise Schwab's Index of Articles Relative to Jewish History and Literature Published in Periodicals, from 1665 to 1900. [JTS Library Location: REF Z 6367 S41] An augmented edition edited by Zosa Szajkowski was published by Ktav in 1971. The original edition (Part I) had been published in 1899 as Repertoire des Articles, and subsequent Parts and editions were published over the next 25 years.

Most of the articles listed were published in Jewish and secular scholarly journals of the 19th century. The majority of the articles were written in German and French, although many are also in Hebrew, English, and other languages. More than 100 publications were indexed, and articles from a few feschriften are also included.

The bulk of the volume is a list of articles arranged by author’s last name. There is a limited subject index, which is challenging to use because the subjects are in French and the text is handwritten. A Hebrew words index, using the Hebrew alphabet, also functions as a subject index.

Explanations of abbreviations are provided in 3 places: a List of Abbreviations (titles of journals indexed); Initiales (general abbreviations); Initiales et Pseudonymes Hebreux (Hebrew abbreviations of authors’ names). Errors in the author listings have been corrected at the end of the volume.

Moise Schwab was an accomplished scholar in a wide variety of fields, both in Jewish and secular studies. His Index was the first attempt to publish an all-inclusive Jewish studies periodical index. This volume provides a key to serious Jewish studies research of the 1800’s and before. It is also useful as a guide to primary source material for current researchers of Jewish history, biography and historiography.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Source of Jewish Expression

Question: What is the source for the following Jewish expression? In English, the expression goes something like this: “Draw the child to you with the right hand, hold him in abeyance with the left”.

Answer: Perhaps you are referring to the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sotah, p.47a: “Tanya, Rabi Shimon ben Elazer omer: ‘yetser tinok ve-ishah tehe semoel doheh ve-yemin mekarevet’”. This means: “It was taught, Rabbi Shimon ben Elazer said: ‘[In regards to] desire[s], a child, and a woman – let the left hand push them away and the right hand bring them close’”.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Identifying members of a Hasidic dynasty

A patron found references to various contemporary Hasidic rabbis (Admorim) in a Yiddish newspaper of the 1920’s. The rabbis’ names were not given, only the name of the town they or their dynasty was associated with. The particular dynasties that were referenced were not from the more well known ones. How could the patron identify the individuals referred to in the newspaper article and learn more about them?

Mosad ha-Rav Kook has a project to create an encyclopedia of Hasidut. One of the parts of this project is entitled Entsiklopedyah la-Hasidut : Ishim [Yerushalayim, Mosad ha-Rav Kuk, 1986-2004]. The JTS Library call number for this work is REF BM198.A1 E582 1986. This three volume work by Yitshak Alfasi is a biographical encyclopedia of Hasidic personalities. However, it is arranged alphabetically by first name and does not have an index of towns or dynasties.

Yitshak Alfasi produced another encyclopedia of Hasidic personalities. It is entitled ha-Hasidut mi-Dor la-Dor [Yerushalayim : Mekhon Daat Yosef, 1995-1998]. (Credit to Rabbi Betsalel Majersdorf, Technical Services Librarian at JTS, for bringing this work to my attention.) The JTS Library call number for this work is REF OVR BM198.A2 A435 1995. This two volume work is arranged according to dynasty. It is divided into sections according to which generation a given dynasty began in. The first volume covers from the first generation of Hasidut (the Baal Shem Tov) through the fifth. The second covers the sixth through the eighth generations (the present day). A list of dynasties covered in the first volume is found on p.381-383 of volume 1. A list of dynasties covered in the second volume is found on p.[531-532] of volume 2. It is important to note that many dynasties have sub-dynasties and rabbis who were known by the names of towns other than that which their dynasty bore. In order to locate these individuals one may consult the index of place names found at the back of volume 2 (p.70-98). Also provided are an index arranged alphabetically by first-name, and an index of works authored by the personalities and mentioned in the encyclopedia.

Alfasi’s second work greatly assisted the patron in his research.

Jewish Wedding Music From Around the Globe

Question: I am researching world-wide Jewish wedding music. Does your library hold audio recordings?

Answer: The JTS Library holds a wide variety of audio recordings of Jewish wedding music. These recordings represent far-flung Jewish communities around the globe, from Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrakhi traditions. Here are examples of cantorial music, folk music and art music relating to the Jewish wedding ceremony and celebration.

Shneyer, David. Love Songs and Blessings, A Jewish Wedding Music Sampler. Rockville, Md., Judaica Resources, 1990 Cassette and booklet. KIT 13.

Audio Available at Judaica Sound Archives:

Cardozo, Abraham Lopes. The Western Sephardi Liturgical Tradition. Jerusalem, Jewish Music Resarch Centre, 2004. CD 750
Includes Sheva Brakhot (Spanish Portuguese)

Audio available at Jewish Music Research Centre:

Chassidic Wedding Dance Melodies. Rudy Tepel, conductor. Disc. REC 408

Audio avail at Judaica Sound Archives:

Koussevitzky, Moshe. Live In Concert and Wedding Ceremony. Brooklyn, Aderet Music, 1996. Cassette. CAS 811

Teiman: the Music of the Yemenite Jews. Produced at Tel-Ad Jerusalem Studios. Teaneck, NJ, Israel Music Heritage Project and Ergo Media, 1993. VID 202
Includes Yemenite Hinna and Wedding Ceremony

Audio and video available at Spielberg Film Archive Virtual Cinema:

Neshoma Orchestra. Mazel Tov! Music for a Jewish Wedding and Other Joyous Occasions. Cedarhurst, NY, Neshoma Orchestra, 1992. Cassette and book. CAS 217 M2017.6.P37 M3 1992
Wedding dance medley 1--Ceremony A--Wedding dance medley 2--Ceremony B--Israeli dance medley--Ceremony C--Mezinka medley

Zim, Paul. Paul Zim’s Musical Mazel Tov to the Bride and Groom. Forest Hills, NY, Simcha, 1992. Cassette. CAS 199
Smorgasbord medley: Oseh shalom - Hava netze b’machol - Rad halailah -- Chorshat ha’ekaliptus -- Vayhi bishurun melech -- Ma tovu -- Mi haish -- Mi adir -- Eshet chayil. Bridal marches: Erev ba - Dodi li - Iti milvanon - Erev shel shoshanim--Mi ban siach -- Od yeeshoma (I) -- Od yeeshoma (II) -- Mazel tov medley: Siman tov - Chos’n kallah mazel tov - Od yeeshoma - Yasis alayich.

Miron-Michrovsky, Issachar, composer and conductor. Prothalamia Hebraica: The wedding Celebration in Contemporary Israeli Sefardic Idiom. New York, N.Y. : Musical Heritage Society, 197? Disc. GDC476

Putterman, David J. [Wedding Ceremony, 194?] 2 sound discs, 78 rpm. REC 1577.
Live recording of Jewish wedding ceremony, both recited and sung by Cantor David J. Putterman of New York’s Park Avenue Synagogue

Bernstein, Leonard. A Jewish Legacy. Hong Kong, Naxos, 2003. CD 691.
Three wedding dances. The first waltz (canon) ; Cha-cha-cha ; Hora

Feldman, Zev and Andy Statman.. Jewish Klezmer Music. Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ, Shanachie, 2000. CD 401
Galitsianer tantsel = Galician dance -- Old sher -- Fun der khupa = From the wedding canopy -- Doina -- Kallarash -- Bride’s waltz -- Ternovka sher -- Kaleh bazetsen = Seating the bride -- Gypsy hora and sirba -- Fihren di makhetonim aheim = Escorting the in-laws home -- Alineinem = All together -- Wedding march.

Azose, Hazzan Isaac. The Liturgy of Ezra Bessaroth. Bellevue, WA, Isaac Azose, 1999. CD617.
Sheva Berahoth (7 wedding blessings). Sephardic (Turkish and Rhodesli tradition).

Di Naye Kapelye. Berlin, Germany, Oriente Musik, 1998. CD 479 M1850.D56 D5 1998
Ani maamini/Wedding march from Transylvania

Barkin, Jacob. The art of Jacob Barkin: Liturgy and Oratorio. Chicago, Musique Internationale, 1997. Cassette. CAS 851.
Songs and processionals for a Jewish wedding composed by Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco.

Rubin, Joel. Beregovsky’s Khasene: Bergeovski’s Wedding, Forgotten Instrumental Treasures from the Ukraine. Mainz, Weltmusik WEERGO, 1997. CD 204.

Brave Old World (Musical group). Beyond the Pale. Cambridge, MA, Rounder, 1994. CD 182.
Bobover wedding march

Muzsikas (Musical group). Maramos: The Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania. Salem, Hannibal, 1993. CD 232.
Khosid wedding dances and the greeting of the bride (Hungarian and Romanian music of Transylvania)

Elman, Mischa. Hebraic and Russian Melodies. New York, Vanguard Classics, 1992. CD 79
Yemenite wedding \ Marc Lavry

Synagogal Music in the Baroque. Jerusalem, Jewish Music Research Centre, Hebrew University, 1991. CD 149.
Echo-poem for a wedding in the ghetto of Mantua / Salamone Rossie, 18th century Italy

Shashmaqam. Central Asia in Forest Hills N.Y.: Music of the Bukharan Jewish Ensemble Shashmaqam. Washington, DC, Smithsonian/Folkways, 1991. CD 120
Medley of songs from wedding repertory: yar-yar, abru kosh dumi mor, shastu-shastu chor, chashmi siyah dori, doire interlude, mahvashi nozuk, badanam, orzu. Jewish Bukharan music from Uzbekistan.

Sulzer, Salomon. Salomon Sulzer: Synagogue Music Reborn. Herts, Symposium Records, 1991. Cassette. CAS 577.
Marriage service in the tradition of 19th century Vienna.

The Yemenite Jews: Jewish-Yemenite Diwan. France: Auvidis-Unesco, 1990. CD 20.
Ahuv yevarech ha-hatan = The beloved will bless the groom (Shira; wedding song) Ahuv mei-har ha-mor natan li morasha = The beloved from the mountain of myrrh gave me my heritage (Shira; wedding song)

A Breslov Wedding in Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1990. Cassette. CAS 1011.

Holzman, Arthur. Israel Is Born, written and narrated by Arthur Holzman. New York, Caedmon, 195? REC 392
Bokharian Jewish wedding song, from 1950’s Israel.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Photograph of Elkan Nathan Adler

How can I acquire a copy of a photograph of Elkan Nathan Adler?
Elkan Nathan Adler (1861-1946) was an Anglo-Jewish lawyer who collected books, manuscripts, and Genizah fragments. In 1923 he sold much of his collection to the Jewish Theological Seminary. JTS also holds his personal archives (ARC 2). The JTS Library owns a photograph of Adler. This photograph has been scanned and is posted on the internet at the following address:

Monday, July 6, 2009

JTS Puts on a Show: The Eternal Light Broadcasts

We are often asked for transcripts and recordings of The Eternal Light broadcasts—the Jewish Theological seminary’s radio and TV programs from the 1940’s through the 1980’s.

An article outlining the history of this broadcasting project is: Shandler, Jeffrey, and Elihu Katz. “Broadcasting American Judaism: The Radio and Television Department of the Jewish Theological Seminary” in Tradition Renewed: A History of the Jewish Theological Seminary, ed. Jack Wertheimer (New York: JTS, 1997) pp. 363-401.

In 2006, JTS produced a documentary DVD about The Eternal Light programs, which includes excerpts of particularly significant broadcasts. The DVD is available in The Library. A more detailed description, plus purchase information is at:

A transcript of 26 radio plays from The Eternal Light was published in book form, entitled The Eternal Light, edited by Morton Wishengrad, with a foreword by Louis Finkelstein (New York: Crown Publishers, 1947)

A condensed transcript of the program from 2/4/73, an interview with A.J. Heschel, was published in Response, vol. 6, no. 4 (Winter 1972/73), p. 23-34.

The Library also holds transcripts of additional programs:

A Conversation with Dr. Gerson D. Cohen: with Carl Stern (1982)

The State of Morality in America
(1975). This is a panel discussion with Edwin Newman, Newton Minow, Rita Hauser and Gerson Cohen.

On Our Minds: Radio Conversations with Ambassador Sol M. Linowitz, with an Introduction by Gerson D. Cohen was published by JTS in the mid-1970’s. This transcript includes iinterviews with Nelson A. Rockefeller, Simon H. Rifkind, Andrew Heiskell, Isaac Stern, John W. Gardner and Charles Frankel.

The Role of the Jew: an Eternal Light Interview with Simon H. Rifkind was published in 1945. This includes excerpts of the interview by Edwin Newman.

The JTS Music Archive holds the liberetto of the cantata The Alphabet of Life by Peter Lyon, aired on March 25, 1951.

The Days of Awe: Their significance and Relevance, a presentation by Dr. Seymour Siegel (aired 10/4/81)

The Maccabees, by Morton Wishengrad, a radio play (aired 11/29/1964)

The JTS Library also holds a selection of video recordings of the Eternal Light television broadcasts:

The Tender Grass, a Passover drama about a man and his seven mute sons (aired in the 1960’s).

Home for Passover, based on the Sholom Aleichem story of Fishel, the melamed , who overcomes obstacles in order to be home in time to celebrate the Passover holiday with his family.

A Conversation with Abraham J. Heschel (1973).

A Talent for Life, on the Jewish experience during the Italian Renaissance (1979).

The Golden Jubilee of Jan Peerce (1980). Martin Bookspan interviews Jan Peerce on the fiftieth anniversary of the entertainer’s career.

The Jew of Hungary: a Study in Survival (1980)

Golda Meir Remembered (1981). Elie Wiesel recalls his friendship with the late stateswoman and Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, with excerpts from his 1970 interview with her.

From Cambridge to Cairo (1983). The story of how Solomon Schechter acquired the Cairo genizah fragments.

Additional recordings, transcripts, photographs and other Eternal Light materials are held by the JTS Communications Department ( ) and the Archives of the Ratner Center ( ).

In addition, selected broadcasts are available in the Library of Congress Audio Collection and from National Broadcasting Company .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First Rabbi in New World

Question: Who was the first person to serve as a rabbi in the Western Hemisphere?

Answer: Rabbi Isaac Aboab da Fonseco of Amsterdam. He became rabbi of the Jewish community in the city of Recife in what was then Dutch Brazil in 1642. During that decade the Jewish population in the area equaled approximately one thousand people. It would take more than another century for North American Jewry to grow to that size. See: Haven and Home : A History of the Jews in America by Abraham J. Karp, p.5 [New York : Schocken Books, 1985].

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hebrew Song Index

Some months ago we received a phone call from a nostalgic gentleman trying to find the musical score of a Hebrew lullaby he remembered from his childhood -- in Egypt during the 1930's.

On another occasion, a scholar of modern Hebrew literature was determining the precise meaning of a literary passage which included a casual reference to a song popular in Palestine 90 years ago. He needed the words to all the stanzas and hoped to find the score as well.

Fortunately, due to the efforts of the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, there is a magnificent tool available which is able to satisfy both of these requests: the Hebrew Songs Index.

Originally available only on-site in Jerusalem, this database (along with its sister database, the Yiddish Songs Index) was digitized a few years ago and added to the marvelous array of options available when searching the National Library’s online catalog:

  • To search this catalog use the BASIC search mode.
  • Choose MUSIC: HEBREW SONGS INDEX from the drop-down list labeled SELECT LIBRARY.
  • Individual songs are retrieved when searching for the title, incipit, refrain, composer, lyricist, keywords, subject, and genres.
  • Be sure to search using the Hebrew alphabet on your keyboard (or a Hebrew virtual keyboard).
  • To find title, incipit and refrain, specify TITLE.
  • To find composer and lyricist, specify AUTHOR.

    The retrieved entry will usually provide the bibliographic information for the printed song collection/anthology which contains this song, with an indication of whether this host-item includes the score or just the words.

    This robust database includes over 13,000 entries. It is particularly rich in Israeli music (both pre-state and post-1948 songs). It also provides very specific geographic indexing, sometimes indicating the song’s town of origin — try typing מסורת into the SEARCH FOR text-box, when you specify SUBJECTS: MUSIC R R in the SELECT SEARCH OPTION field. Music of the various Hasidic sects is also indexed by sect: specify מסורת חסידים as a subject search, for this option.

    There are not many indexes to Hebrew and Yiddish songs in printed collections, so we treasure the few such tools that we have. And indeed the Hebrew University's Hebrew and Yiddish song indexes are veritable treasures.