Tag Archives: Jewish-Christian relations

Since 1754: The study of Hebrew at Columbia (and a new acquisition)


Samuel Johnson’s Psalms

From its inception in 1754, the founders of Columbia University felt that the study of Hebrew was critical to understanding the classics.  Columbia’s collection includes founder Samuel Johnson’s own copy of a Hebrew-Latin psalms with the Hebrew alphabet written in his own hand.

Another professor in the 18th century was Johann Kunze, who taught Hebrew at Columbia from 1784-1787, and from 1792-1794.  Professor Kunze was well-known for his Hebrew scholarship far beyond Columbia.  He was also close with Gershom Seixas, a Columbia trustee (appointed 1784) and important Jewish figure of the colonial era.

While Kunze was in New York (he had previously taught Hebrew at the University of Pennsylvania), he was also the pastor of the Trinity and Christ Church, the city’s only Lutheran house of worship.  Kunze authored the first Lutheran hymnbook in English.

When he was teaching Hebrew at Columbia College, the only Hebrew type to be found was at Cambridge, where another professor of Hebrew (at Harvard) had brought in from England so he could print his textbook.  In New York, however, Hebrew type was not easily attainable.  It seems that Professor Kunze handwrote a Hebrew grammar for his class (in Latin), from which a student copied (and translated) a copy for himself in May of 1796.

We are pleased to announce the acquisition of this manuscript to the Columbiana collection of the University.  This new manuscript is item 209 in the Columbiana manuscripts collection.

New Acquisitions: Prague history, 15th c. Yiddish medicine, and Italian Broadsides

It has been a busy year for Judaica acquisitions at the Columbia RBML.  Three important acquisitions have been added to our collection:

  1. A collection of forty Italian Broadsides depicting regulations on various communities (including Ferrara, Padua, Ancona, and others), only one of which is in the extensive Valmadonna collection of broadsides.  We plan to digitize this collection to add to the already significant corpus provided by Valmadonna.  Regulations include prohibitions on throwing candy, talking in the synagogue and shouting, as well as financial matters such as taxes.
  2. A late 18th century manuscript describing the history of the Jewish community of Prague from the perspective of the author, Yosef Yitshak Ha-kohen Poppers.  Particularly interesting from a visual perspective is the addition of a printed engraving pasted on to the title page.
  3. Our most recent acquisition is a 15th century Sefer Refu’os, in Yiddish (with Italian words for herbs, and, citing at least one Ladino incantation), of remedies and cures for all sorts of things, including teeth whitening, various remedies for wounds, an incantation for revelation of one’s destined wife, and many more.  This manuscript is unique in both content and language, and we invite scholars to work on it!  The manuscript is in the process of being digitized, and will be made available online after digitization.


Hebrew Mss @ CUL: New Aquisitions in History

In February of 1988, the Library Columns, the publication of the Columbia University Libraries, had a note about a donation from Mr. and Mrs. Schaefler.  The donation described, among other items, "…fourteenth-century documents pertaining to commercial transactions of the Jewish community at Apt in Provence, France."  Six of these manuscripts have been digitized, and are now part of the Digital Scriptorium, a database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts from around the world.

This group of manuscripts was cataloged as Western MS 41A-F.

A month ago, thanks to the Alexander Foundation, the library was able to acquire six more "notarial documents relating to fourteenth century Jews of Apt, in Provence, France."  These documents have been added to the original group.

The new documents describe loans owed to specific Jews between 1382 and 1445.  These are important records for the economic interactions between Jews and Christians in Provence during this period.

Early American Jewish Communities and their Printed Texts – This week!

December 9, 2010 (6-7 PM) at the Museum of Biblical Art

Professor Diner, Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History Director, Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History New York University, will focus on three aspects of Jewish life in early America as they reflect on the first Hebrew bible printed here. She will look at the nature of American Jewish communities from the 17th century into the middle of the 19th century, the relationship between American Jewry and the established Jewish communities of Europe, and the connections between Jews and Christians in the religious realm in that period.

Pre-registration is required. To RSVP please call 212.408.1251 or e-mail us at rsvp@mobia.org.  See here for more info.