The Mystery of a Polish Yeshiva’s Found Jewish Books

Sept. 14 2022

Soon after its founding in 1930 by Rabbi Meir Shapira, the Lublin yeshiva became one of the largest such institutions in the world. It also contained a massive library of religious texts, which was long thought to have been burned during World War II. But books bearing the library’s stamp periodically surface at auctions and used-book sales. Piotr Nazaruk explores the library’s history, and tries to solve the mystery of its fate:

This library would not have existed—and certainly could not have been completed so quickly—had it not been for generous donors from all over Poland and abroad. Rabbi Benjamin Gut of the Chasam Sopher synagogue in New York, donated as many as 4,000 volumes and $1,000 dollars to the library. Special committees established throughout Poland sent thousands of books to Lublin, including priceless old prints and manuscripts, which they collected from institutions and private donors. . . . Although by the end of the 1930s the yeshiva probably had not managed to collect the planned 100,000 volumes, it had become one of the largest and most valuable Jewish religious libraries in Poland at that time.

I had a hard time accepting the widespread, but very poorly attested, [account of the library’s books being] destroyed. In fact, the only information about the burning of these books comes from February 1940, when the Nazi youth magazine Die Deutsche Jugend-Zeitung reportedly published a virulent and boastful note about the yeshiva library being thrown out of the building and burned in a fire that lasted twenty hours. Although the note from Die Deutsche Jugend-Zeitung is cited by many researchers, no one seems to have seen this newspaper in person.

The Nazis destroyed Jewish and non-Jewish books and relics, but just as often—especially when the items had considerable value—they looted them. [In fact], the head of the German Staatsbibliothek (state library) in Lublin, Wasyl Kutschabsky—hired Aron Lebwohl, a rabbi and graduate of the yeshiva, to catalog the yeshiva’s collection as late as April 1941.

Read more at Teatr NN

More about: Holocaust, Polish Jewry, Rare books

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan