Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A List of Some JTS Library Resources Relating to the Yemenite Jewish Community

-          Gimani, Aharon.
Bene Teman : Meḥḳarim be-yahadut Teman u-morashtah
[Lod : Orot Yahadut ha-Magrab : Merkaz Dahan, 711, 2011]
DS135.Y4 G55 2011

-          Mi-Teman le-Yiśraʼel : tarbut, lashon, sifrut, ḥinukh ; hagut u-meḥḳar
[Yiśraʼel : E. Ḳapaḥ, 2011]
DS113.8.Y4 M58 2011

-          Ben-Daṿid, Aharon.
Sefer ha-maʻaśim : maʻaśim me-ḥaye Yehude tsefon Teman ...
[Ḳiryat ʻEḳron : Hotsaʼat "Ahavat Teman", (2010)]
DS135.Y4 B452 2010

-          Mizraḥi, Avshalom.
Mor u-levonah : orḥot ḥayim, beriʼut u-refuʼah be-mishkenot Yehude Teman
[R.G. (z.o., Ramat Gan) : Hotsaʼat Foḳus ; : Netanyah : ha-Agudah le-ṭipuaḥ ḥevrah ṿe-tarbut, c2007]
R133 .M59 2007

-          Muchawsky-Schnapper, Ester.
The Yemenites : two thousand years of Jewish culture
[Jerusalem : The Israel Museum, 2000]
Oversize DS135.Y4 M82 2000

-          Judaeo-Yemenite studies : proceedings of the second international congress
[Princeton, N.J. : Institute of Semitic Studies, 1999]
DS135.Y4 J83 1999

-          Tobi, Joseph.
The Jews of Yemen : studies in their history and culture
[Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 1999]
DS135.Y4 T693 1999

-          Tawil, Hayim.
Operation Esther : opening the door for the last Jews of Yemen
[New York : Belkis Press, 1998]
DS135.Y4 T38 1998

-          The Jews of Aden
[(London) : London Museum of Jewish Life, c1991]
OVERSIZE DS135.Y4 J48 1991

-          Nini, Yehuda.
The Jews of the Yemen, 1800-1914
[Chur : Philadelphia : Harwood Academic Publishers, c1991]
DS135.Y4 N5213 1991

-          Gold, Sharlya.
The answered prayer, and other Yemenite folktales
[Philadelphia : Jewish Publication Society, 1990]
Educational Resource Center PZ8.1.G58 An 1990

-          Ahroni, Reuben.
Yemenite Jewry : origins, culture, and literature
[Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1986]
DS135.Y4 A46 1986

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Converting between Hebrew and Gregorian Years

How does one calculate the Gregorian year from the Hebrew year (and the reverse)?

To calculate the Gregorian year from the Hebrew year, convert the Hebrew letters to numerals and add the number 1240 to that result. For the reverse, subtract the number 1240 from the Gregorian year and then convert the numerals to Hebrew letters. For a chart to convert the Hebrew alphabet to numbers, see here. If you are given the Hebrew year in numerals (e.g. 5774), exclude 5,000 in your calculation (see below) and add 1240 to the remaining numerals (e.g. 774). 

Some examples:

1. Hebrew year: תרכד
In numerals: 
    ת is 400
    ר is 200
    כ is 20
     ד is 4
Sum of numerals: 400 + 200 + 20 + 4 =624 (The year תרכד actually is the year 5624, but the 5,000 is left off for the purposes of the calculation and is assumed). 
Add 624 to 1240: 624 + 1240 = 1864

2. English year: 2011
Subtract 1240: 2011 - 1240 = 771 (The year actually is 5771, but the 5,000 is assumed). 
Convert to Hebrew letters: There is no Hebrew letter with the numerical equivalent as high as 700, but 700 is 400 + 300, ת and ש.
70 = ע
1 = א
Result: תשעא

From the time between the Hebrew New Year in the Fall to the Gregorian New Year in the Winter, the year is off by one, so this device is not always exact unless you know the month. This device generally though often proves helpful to librarians, who typically need to calculate the particular year in which a book was printed. 

The JTS Library has many books on the topic of the Jewish calendar. For example, Judaism, Mathematics, and the Hebrew Calendar, by Hyman Gabai, presents a comprehensive, in depth analysis of the Hebrew calendar. The Jewish Calendar, by Rabbi David Feinstein, also offers a good overview of the calendar and Jewish holidays, as well as a section titled "Basic rules of calendar-based liturgies." Hebrew and Solar Calendar Every Day for 200 Years, by Victor E. Levy, and The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, by Arthur Spier, offer conversion charts and introductory explanations of the calendar system. Calendrical Calculations, by Edward M. Reingold, provides a mathematical explanation of the Julian, Gregorian, Jewish, and Muslim calendars. For a historical perspective, consult the book Palaces of Time: Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe, by Elisheva Carlebach.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Witnesses in Jewish Law

Where is there a source in Jewish Law that states that someone who eats a meal in the marketplace becomes disqualified from serving as a witness?

The Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Kiddushin page 40b discuss this topic. The text from the Soncino translation (Epstein, Rabbi Dr. I. The Babylonian Talmud. London: Soncino Press, 1935-1948) reads as follows:


Talmud: “Our Rabbis taught: He who eats in the market-place is like a dog; and some say that he is unfit to testify. R. Idi b. Abin said: The halachah agrees with the latter.”

Rashi on this topic offers a reason for this law, namely that such a person acts in an undignified manner and as such lacks self-respect. Someone who lacks self-respect will not feel embarrassed about testifying falsely. The Tosafist commentators question Rashi’s reason based on other sources that imply that it is undignified only for a Torah scholar to eat in the marketplace, but for others not, and offer three other possible reasons. The first reason explains that the person snatches/steals food and eats. The second reason explains that the person goes around from vendor to vendor, tasting a little bit of each food, as though he were to purchase it but then doesn't. The third reason quotes the Tosafist commentator Rabbeinu Tam as saying that the concept refers to someone who eats a complete meal of bread (seudah) while in the market, which is considered more disgraceful. Both Rashi's and the Tosafists' explanations offer reasons that eating in the marketplace might have negative connotations for serving as a witness. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jacob H. Schiff and The Jewish Theological Seminary

Which resources does The Library have in its collection for someone researching the connection between Jacob Schiff and The Jewish Theological Seminary?

The Library has a number of books about Jacob Schiff that include information about his connection to The Jewish Theological Seminary. These books include: Jacob H. Schiff: His Life and Letters, by Cyrus Adler (call number CT275 S3442 A2 1929), Jacob Henry Schiff: A Biographical Sketch, also by Cyrus Adler (call number CT275 S3442 A3), and Jacob H. Schiff: A Study in American Jewish Leadership (call number E184.37 S37 C64 1999). In addition, the book Tradition Renewed, a two volume history of the Seminary, contains information about Jacob Schiff (call number BM90 J56 T83 1997).

Jacbob H. Schiff: His Life and Letters contains information about Schiff's donations to the Seminary, his involvement in the construction of its building, his connection to Solomon Schechter and Kohut, his involvement in the purchase of the Steinschneider collection for the library, and his attendance of a number of commencement ceremonies and student dinners (pages 54-58).

Jacob Henry Schiff: A Biographical Sketch discusses Schiff's attendance of meetings of the Board of Directors as well as his role as a donor and his connection to Schechter. It also again mentions his attendance of commencement ceremonies and student dinners (22-26).

Jacob H. Schiff: A Study in American Jewish Leadership provides information about Schiff's role in fund-raising for the Seminary, and addresses possible reasons as to why he might have taken such a strong interest in the Seminary. In addition, this book mentions that his involvement included serving as a judge for student debates (96-106).

The index to Tradition Renewed contains thirty-two entries under the listing "Schiff, Jacob." Topics include Cyrus Adler, Board of Directors, The Library, Mordechai Kaplan, and The Teacher's Institute.

The archives of The Jewish Theological Seminary contains correspondence between Jacob Schiff and other figures, including seminary leaders. Archival material relating to Schiff includes general correspondence spanning 1901-1917, including a letter to Sulzberger. In terms of other specific individuals, the collection includes a 1911 correspondence with Alexander Marx, correspondence with Adolphus Solomon, and correspondence with Schechter (spanning 1902-1910). 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Who wrote the work Maaseh Tuviah, what type of work is it, and where was it printed?

The physician Tobias/Tuviah Cohn (Tobias the son of Moses Cohn), who lived from 1652 to 1729, wrote the book Maaseh Tuviah. He grew up in the town of Metz in a Rabbinic family, lived in Poland, and studied medicine in Frankfurt on Oder and at Padua in Italy (Margalith, 2007). As court physician in Turkey, he served five sultans (Muntner, 2007).
Maaseh Tuviah contains five sections. Sections one through four (Book One) include: The Upper World- philosophy, The Middle World- Astronomy, The Small World- “things under the moon,” and Foundations of the World- “the four foundational elements.” Section five (Book Two), titled The New World, deals with medicine. Maaseh Tuviah serves as Cohn’s intellectual magnum opus, in that it contains the extent of all of his scientific knowledge on medicine, astronomy, botany, zoology, and philosophy.
The Bragadini family, a family of Venetian publishers, published Maaseh Tuviah in 1708. Hebrew books printed in Venice in the eighteenth century bore the symbol “Nella Stamperia Bragadina” (stamp of Bragadini) because Hebrew books in Venice were required to be published only under the nobleman Bragadini, with payment (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906). The term “Stamperia Bragadina” appears on publications to indicate that the Christian printers who printed the Hebrew books worked for the Bragadini family (Ibid.). The Bragadini family had a long history of publishing Hebrew books. After the printer Bomberg, who had printed the first Talmud, became less prominent, a competition emerged for the printing of Hebrew books, and the Bragadini family emerged at the forefront, such that in the mid-1500s in Venice, the Bragadini family had jurisdiction over the printing of Hebrew books (Ibid.). It seems that jurisdiction continued through the mid-1700s.
The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America owns a first edition of Maaseh Tuviah, with the call number of RB 144:4. The book was published in Hebrew and consists of one volume containing multiple works, for a total of 321 pages. Many later printings of the book occurred: Venice- 1715, 1728, 1769, and 1850, Jessnitz-1721, Lemberg- 1867, 1875, Cracow- 1908, Jerusalem- 1967, 1978, and Brooklyn- 1974 (Ruderman, 1995, p. 229).  The library’s copy has Quarto binding (collation formula: [6] [158]ff ([6]ff, 1-39^4, 40^2)), its outer binding consists of contemporary sprinkled calf, and it measures 22.5 by 17 centimeters. The book includes one end page at each end, Hebrew and Arabic pagination, with four pages per number (e.g. 13: 1-4), a catchword at bottom of the page, appendices (in the form of a summary of contents of each section before each section), and errata (in the form of a table of errors in back of the book). The book includes neither footnotes, end notes, nor glosses. The print features monochrome ink, and the book includes many scientific illustrations.

Jewish Encyclopedia. (1906). Bragadini. Retrieved from

Margalith, David. (2007). "Cohn, Tobias ben Moses." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. (Vol. 5, pp. 44-45). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. Retrieved from

Muntner, Suesmann et al. (2007). “Medicine.”  Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik .  2nd ed.  (Vol. 13).  Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.

Ruderman, David B. (1995). Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.