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April 09, 1971 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1971-04-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Front Page Illustration: Historical
Analysis in Essay by Prof. Gutmann

The photograph on the front page
of this issue reproduces the illus-
tration of the famous Darmstadt
Passover Hagada which is now be-
ing reprinted in a limited edition of
600 copies. The Jewish News is
indebted to Prof. Joseph Gutmann
of Wayne State University for ar-
rangements to reproduce this
photo. Dr. Gutmann is the author
of the chief explanatory essay in
the Darmstadt Hagada which is be-
ing reissued by the Axel Springer
Verlag in Germany. An explana-
tory note from the publishers states
that "the Darmstadt Pesah Hagada
was written by Israel ben Meir,
a citizen of Heidelberg.
"Although Israel ben Meir names
Heidelberg as the place where he
lived, it is very unlikely that he
wrote The manuscript in this town
on the river Neckar from which
all Jews had been expelled in 1391.
Stylistic and textual evidence sug-
gests that the Darmstadt Hagada
was probably produced in the sec-
ond quarter of the 15th Century
in the Upper Rhine region."
Dr. Gutmann's extensive essay
to appear in the reprinted Darms-
tadt Hagada draws attention to
many unusual factors in the his-
tory of art as it relates to the
Passover Hagada. An impressive
evaluation of the Hagada and its
significance is presented in this
Tracing the background of the
Hagada, and the roles of the au-
thors and illustrators, Dr. Gutmann
states that this Hagada was in
Jewish possession in the 17th and
18th centuries. He quotes Prof.
Alexander Marx as having sug-
gested that Israel ben Meir and
the scribe of the First Cincinnati
Hagada, Meir ben Joseph Jaffe,
were father and son.

Israel ben Meir of Brandes-
burg also is alluded to as "an
itinerant scribe and bookbinder
who is mentioned in the proceed.
ings of the Trent Ritual Murder
Trial" and "as part of an un-
broken family tradition of scribe-
.., -illustrators in 15th Century


Aewish art in the Middle Ages as
well as the historical problems of
the origin of the Hagada provide
.itteresting material data in the
• essa 37 -
The 15th - Century Darmstadt
':Hagada is described as the oldest
_ known Ashkenazic Hagada. The
golden framed Hebrew letters are
deScSbed extensively. Artistic skills
and-::the'influence of artists of sev-
eral nations are defined.
HistOrically, Dr. Gutmann's es-
say deals with - the Trent Ritual
Murder Trial of 1475-76 and states
that Israel ben' Meir was "baptized
and known as Wolfgang" in the
proceedings of the trial.
The following valuable data re-
garding the Darmstadt • Hagada
and the art trends and the histori-
cal is quoted from Dr. Gutmann's
important essay:
"At the time that the Darmstadt
Hagada was made in the 15th Cen-
tury, the plight of the Jews in the
Rhine region was indeed grave.
Driven from the hereditary lands
of the Palatinate in 1391, Rupert H
had given their synagogue in the
capital city of Heidelberg to the
University of Heidelberg as a
chapel. From now on they were
allowed to reside only in the free
Imperial cities of the Rhine Pala-
tinate, as these were only imperial
pawnings and hence not part of
the hereditary lands of the Pala-
tinate. Even in these cities, how-
ever, there seemed no letup in the
agonizing and tortuous deteriora-
tion of their status — a situation
which had begun in 13th Century
Germany and had reached new
heights after the frightening Black
Plague of 1349. Living in a totally
insecure environment, they were
subject to daily harrassment, per-
secution and explusion and accused
of such dastardly crimes as host
stabbing, ritual murder and well
poisoning. Gone were the days
when German emperor, bishop and
noble vied with one another to in-



Friday, April 9, 1971-5

"The Darmstadt Hagada, though

unique and enigmatic, is a splen-
did witness of an age when Jew
and Christian alike strove to have
nobility saw that much of its his most sacred books illustrated—
landed property was mortgaged to not for the sake of personal vanity
Jewish money lenders; that it was or aggrandizment but for ad
hopelessly in debt to him with lit- majorem Dei gloriam."
tle hope of repayment, did it begin
to viciously turn against the Jew. U for Silicone Products
From the 13th Century on, no place
Three Dow Corning a ntifoa m
in medieval Germany served any products have now been sanctioned
more as a secure haven to the Jew for use in the processing of kosher
for any length of time.
foods by the Kashruth Division of
"Is it any wonder that images the Union of Orthodox Jewish Con-
in 15th Century German Hagada gregations of America and now
manuscripts show the Jewish leg- bear the U certification. This cer-
end of Pharaoh bathing in the tification covers Dow Corning Anti-
blood of Jewish children — a thin foam A Compound-food grade, Dow
disguise to convey the brutality Corning Antifoam C Emulsion and
and daily bloodletting they were Dow Corning Antifoam FG-10
subject to at the hands of Chris- Emulsion.
tians. They yearned to be released
from this painful existence and
longed for salvation and redemp-
tion, embodied in the traditionally
expected arrival of the Messiah or
Elijah, his messenger, at the Pass-
over seder, and hence lovingly de-
picted in 15th Century Hagada
manuscripts from Germany.

The new Israel Oscar GrusS
Comprehensive High School, now
in construction at Mar Batya,

Mizrachi Women's Children's Vil-

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"The luxurious miniatures in

vite Jews and bring them under the Darmstadt Hagada give no
their jurisdiction. Gone were the hint of Jewish life at that time.
days when they were given special In fact, the lavish garments of
privileges, embodied in charters the figures contradict the very
granting tax exemptions, mobility, I ordinances, such as those from
protection of life and property, the Cologne in 1404, forbidding Jews
choicest spots for settlement in the such extravagance.
towns. Tdlerated as a pariah class,
"The miniatures are not typical
reduced to servile status (servi either iconographically or stylistic-
camerae), living in daily jeopardy ally of 15th Century are in Hebrew
of losing life and property, the manuscripts. Rather, they reflect
story of the 15th Century German the elegant International Gothic
Jewry is one of constant expulsions style so popular in courtly circles.
and persecutions from one German It must be noted that Christian
principality or imperial city to guild restrictions made it virtually
another. impossible for a talented Jew to
"Few could remember the vital learn miniature painting and the
role Jews had played in building hostile, unstable conditions of the
the feudal economy of medieval German environment produced
Germany. Encouraged first under few Hebrew manuscripts whose
the Carolingians to engage in in- miniature rise above the level of
ternational trade by bringing the folk art. The magnificent square
exotic spices from the Islamic ,Hebrew script does reveal, .how-
East to the upper classes, they ever, the heights reached by a
held this privileged role until professional Jewish scribe. Nor
ousted by such emerging Italian should it be forgotten that more
city states as Venice. Still. they stable conditions in 15th Century
had a prominent role to play. The northern Italy and 14th Century
feudal rulers needed the money Spain produced some splendid il-
and skill of the Jews and encour- luminated Hebrew manuscripts.
aged Jewish settlement in the These manuscripts belie the com-
Rhone and Rhine valleys in the mon myth—a favorite of 19th and
11th and 12th centuries in order 20th Century racial theorists—that
that they help build up as seden- the Jew is racially doomed to aes-
tary merchants the urban and inter thetic blindness and hence bereft
urban . commerce in the burgeoning of artistic talent or appreciation.
towns.. They held this position until
they were gradually displaced by
classes of Christian merchants and
the organization of Christian
guilds. Their final vital function in
the feudal economy of medieval
Germany was as large-scale money
lenders to help finance, among
Excitingly romantic gown
other projects, the architectural
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