Bringing the Lost Prayer Book of Catalonian Jewry Back to Life

In the Middle Ages, the Jews of Catalonia had a distinct liturgy, shared by their brethren in nearby Valencia and the island of Majorca. Using partial manuscripts, the Israeli scholar Idan Perez has reconstructed a complete prayer book reflecting this liturgy, writes Chen Malul:

Perez, now head of the rare-books department at the National Library of Israel, worked on the restoration project for three years. The prayer book, which had never been printed in its entirety . . . was recreated based on six separate manuscripts. The earliest, preserved in the Ginzburg collection in Moscow, dates to around 1352, more than 100 years before the expulsion [of the Jews from Spain]. The latest of the manuscripts, preserved in Rome in the Biblioteca Casanatense, was copied in the year 1507, less than twenty years after the expulsion. “I didn’t add a single word of my own, everything came from the manuscripts,” he explains.

Perez elaborated further on the origins of the Catalan rite:

As we know, this ancient prayer style did not survive because the communities of the Catalan Jews did not survive centuries of [persecution]. Today, there is no community that prays according to this [liturgy]. I began my historical research about the Jews who fled Catalonia after the riots of 1391 and the expulsion in 1492 and reached important findings about the communities of expelled Catalan Jews in Italy, the Ottoman empire, and Algiers.

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More about: Catalonia, Prayer books, Sephardim, Spanish Expulsion


Understanding the Background of the White House Ruling on Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act

Dec. 13 2019

On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order allowing federal officials to extend the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to Jews. (The order, promptly condemned for classifying Jews as a separate nationality, did nothing of the sort.) In 2010, Kenneth Marcus called for precisely such a ruling in the pages of Commentary, citing in particular the Department of Education’s lax response to a series of incidents at the University of California at Irvine, where, among much elase, Jewish property was vandalized and Jewish students were pelted with rocks, called “dirty Jew” and other epithets, and were told, “Jewish students are the plague of mankind.”

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, U.S. Politics