New and newly processed collections

It is a busy time for the Norman E. Alexander Library for Jewish Studies. In addition to our many classes last fall, and new ones coming up in the Spring, we have also been focusing on important acquisitions and processing work to broaden our collections and make them better available. Two student assistants, Jem Hanan (‘BC 27) and Relly Robinson (‘BC 24) have been working to process a plethora of materials.
Boxes of cards from the Spinoza archive, awaiting rehousing and labeling.
Jem completed the work begun by Yoav Varadi, (GS ’20) and Marianna Najman-Franks (BC ’22) to create a finding aid for the Adolph Oko collection of Spinoza materials. Jem’s work involved completing the inventory of the collection, rehousing materials in old and broken boxes, and, under the guidance of Head of Archives Processing Kevin Schlottman, compiling the text of the finding aid.  A description of the collection is below:
“The Adolph Oko collection of Spinoza materials contains correspondence surrounding the Domus Spinoza and Spinoza-related findings. Also included are Oko’s personal notes on Spinoza, his collected Spinoza ephemera, and Spinoza-related clippings, as well as some of Oko’s personal photographs, primarily of himself and Dr. Carl Gebhardt. It also contains the card files belonging to Oko, Gebhardt, and the Spinoza Bibliography.”
RBML also holds the Baruch Spinoza Book Collection, a set of 3,933 volumes formed from the union of the Spinoza collections of Adolph S. Oko and Carl Gebhardt. In conjunction with the completion of the archive, RBML cataloger Matthew Haugen completed cataloging of the manuscripts in the Spinoza Book collection.
Sheet featuring Hebrew letters and woodcuts
Aleph-bet chart, Frankfurt, c.1730
Relly worked on a number of projects this semester: inventorying a recent addition of dozens of items to our collection of early modern broadsides relating to the Jewish community in Italy, measuring manuscripts to be boxed for safer preservation, and creating an inventory of the photographs in the Varian Fry Papers (made famous in the recent movie Transatlantic!). Among the broadsides Relly worked on were documents announcing legislation to protect Jews against Christian attacks in Italy, as well as anti-Jewish legislation such as the limitation of how Christian women could and could not interact with Jews. 
Ketubah Mashhad, opening page
A couple of additional new broadsides were added to our collection as well, as part of recent acquisitions; a calendar from the Jewish community of Mantua in 1594 and an aleph-bet chart from Frankfurt, c. 1730. Both of these have unique typographical aspects, and will be utilized in the classroom in the coming months.
We also acquired two unique manuscripts featuring Persian-Jewish art and culture: The first is a Ketubbah celebrating the marriage of Matatiyah ben Shimon and Sarah bat Menashe on 12 Elul 5654 (September 13, 1894) in Mashhad, in present-day Iran.  This marriage document is particularly interesting because it was created in the form of a book rather than as a single large sheet, which is the case for all of the rest of the ketubbot in our collection.
The second manuscript features afternoon and evening prayers, along with many other prayers in Hebrew (Baghdad, 1897) alongside colorful decorations and decorated words.  Both manuscripts will broaden our collections of Jewish materials from the Middle East, while highlighting features of Jewish and Persian art.
Page from Persian prayerbook
Page from Persian prayerbook
Page from Persian prayerbook
Another recent acquisition featuring Jewish art is Issachar Ryback’s Mayn horever heym (Berlin, 1923), with detailed illustrations of the Shetl (see the decorated cover below). This one will be used in classes on Eastern European history, literature, and art.  Expect a forthcoming post with more details on this work!
Finally, we added a significant collection of Yiddish letters to our Dutch Jewish Community Archive.  The collection already contains a significant number of letters relating to the Sephardic Jewish community in the Netherlands, beginning in the 17th century (many of which are available online).  This addition of materials from the parallel Ashkenazic, Yiddish speaking community in the Netherlands, with a focus on Amsterdam will help diversify our holdings from this area.

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