The Lost Hebrew Manuscripts Hidden in Christian Books

In the 16th and 17th centuries, bookbinders, printers, and notaries routinely used pages from discarded manuscripts to cover documents or to make bindings for new books. This procedure has led to the preservation of thousands of fragments of Jewish books and historical documents—which Simcha Emmanuel dubs the “European Genizah” by analogy to the trove of discarded manuscripts discovered in a Cairo synagogue. Although these fragments are sometimes found in Hebrew works, more often than not they are found in Gentile ones.

How did hundreds and thousands of Hebrew manuscripts come into the possession of Christian bookbinders? Rabbi Joseph Yuspa Hahn Nordlingen [1570–1637] writes: “most of the parchment books common nowadays came into Christian hands during persecutions.” A more explicit account is found in . . . a description of the pogrom against the Jews of Frankfurt in the year 1614. The author, an eyewitness to the pogrom, reports acts of plunder and clearly distinguishes between the fate of printed books—which were sentenced to destruction—and that of parchment manuscripts which were sold to the bookbinders.

This writer’s words are corroborated in full by non-Jewish sources, and documentation from Frankfurt in those years records, in detail, that many Hebrew manuscripts were stolen from the city’s Jews during the pogrom and sold to bookbinders.

In Jewish society as well, starting in the 16th century, printed editions began to replace manuscripts on bookshelves, and manuscripts whose time had come were pushed to the margins. It is therefore possible that due to the major decline in the value of manuscripts, some members of the Jewish community voluntarily sold the valuable parchment pages of their manuscripts to bookbinders of their own free will, as was the custom among their Christian neighbors.

While scholars have been aware of these scattered fragments for over a century only in recent years have they made progress in mining them, piecing together medieval rabbinic works that were long thought lost—among other discoveries.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish history, Manuscripts, Rare books


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University