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August 12, 1983 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-08-12

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

Friday, August 12, 1983 5


Rare Print Found at Yeshiva U.

(Continued from Page 1)
as a preacher. A collection of
his sermons, "Giv'at Shaul"
(The Mound of Saul, I
Samuel, xi, 4) -was printed
in Hebrew in Amsterdam in
In 1901, two publishers in
Warsaw, Poland, Eliezer
Plat and Joseph Shein, de-
cided to reprint "Giv'at
Shaul." As they started to
search through libraries to
find a complete copy of the
original work, they came
across a rare painting of a
man they assumed to be
Rabbi Morteira. The paint-
ing had been slipped into a
copy of Morteira's work by
its owner.
From that painting, a
print was made through a
photoengraving process.
It was pasted into the
1901 edition of the book,
Dr. Leiman said. But Dr.
Leiman suspects most
readers of the 1901 book
took the print out of the
volume and framed it.
"Through two World
Wars and the Holocaust,"
Dr. Leiman said, "it
seems that most of the
prints were lost."
In fact, scholars began to
doubt that the print was
ever made, Dr. Leiman
said. In 1974, Dr. Leiman
read an article by a noted
Jewish historian who ex-
pressed such doubts because
he had never seen a copy of
the print.
"But I felt sure that one
did exist," Dr. Leiman said.
"I started to look for it. I
suppose other people did not
think it was lost because
they assumed it never
Throughout the next nine
years, Dr. Leiman made a
special effort to look at the
1901 volumes whenever he
was in a library. He found
copies of the book in the Li-
brary of Congress, the New
York Public Library, and
the Hebrew University li-
brary in Jerusalem, but he
did not find a copy of the
Then one day, about a
year ago, Dr. Leiman
found four copies of the
book in the library at
Yeshiva University's
Main Center in the Wash-
ington Heights section of
Manhattan. They were
among other un-
catalogued materials
there. In one of those
books, he found the print.
The book with the print is
now in the rare book
room of the University
Main Center library.
Dr. Leiman wrote an arti-
cle about his discovery.
That article appeared in the
latest issue of the scholarly
journal, "Alei Sefer," pub-
lished by the Department of
Bibliography at Bar-Ilan
University in Israel.
A reader of the article
joined in the search for Mor-
teira prints, Dr. Leiman
said. That reader found a
second copy of the print in a
book that is part of a
Judaica collection in Brook-
lyn. So far, those two prints
are the only ones known to
According to Yeshiva

University library officials,
the book that sparked Dr.
Leiman's article originally
belonged to Rabbi Aaron
Reuben Charney of
Bayonne, N.J.
Rabbi Charney was
born in Sokoly, Poland,
in 1888 and taught Tal-
mud at the Yeshiva of
Suwalk, Poland, before
emigrating to Great Brit-
ain in 1914. He served as a
rabbi of congregations in
London and Birmingham
before emigrating to the
United States.
He came to the United
States in 1921 and served as
spiritual leader of a congre-
gation in Revere, Mass. be-
fore becoming spiritual
leader of Beth Abraham
Congregation in Bayonne in
1924. He served in that pul-
pit until he retired in 1965.
Soon after Rabbi Char-
ney's death in 1970, his son,
Wolfe R. Charney,, donated
the rabbi's books to the uni-
versity library on behalf of
the Charney family.
The 1901. edition of
"Giv'at Shaul" includes a
biographical sketch of
Rabbi Morteira written by
the publishers. From that
sketch, a reader can learn
that, although Rabbi Mor-
teira was best known in the
secular world for his con-
nection with Spinoza,
within the Jewish commu-
nity he is more famous for
his preaching and his legal
Rabbi Morteira was a
Venetian by birth. As a
youth, he studied
medicine under Elias
Montalto, a Jew and the
physician to Maria de
Medici, queen of
In 1616, Montalto died,
and the queen was anxious
to have her physician
buried in a Jewish cemen-
tery. Since -she knew of-no
such cemetery in France,
she sent Rabbi Morteira
with the body to the Por-
tuguese colony in Amster-
dam to see that the rites
were properly performed.
Rabbi Morteira had no in
tention of staying in
Amsterdam, but, once
there, he was convinced by
the Jewish leaders of that
city. to become spiritual
leader of one of the
synagogues. He had re-
ceived a thorough training
in Hebrew law before he had
begun to study medicine.
The rabbi is remembered
especially today for his rul-
ing involving the descen-
dants of Marranos, Jews
who had become superficial
Christians in order to es-
cape persecution in such
countries as Spain during
the 16th Century.
Many of the Jews in
Rabbi M-orteira's com-
munity were descendants
of those Marranos, and
the rabbi ruled that other
Jews could not shame
those descendants be-
cause they did not know
very much about Jewish
The 1901 edition of
"Giv'at Shaul" also contains
a letter of commendation to

the publishers from Rabbi
Haym Soloveitchik, rabbin-
ical leader in Brisk,
But Rabbi Soloveitchik '
obviously had not seen the
biographical sketch when
he wrote the letter. The
sketch which made refer-
ence to Rabbi Morteira's re-
lationship with Spinoza
gave rise to some con-
troversy and the publishers
were forced to revise it.
In copies of the books that
already were printed, they
pasted a new page over the
offending passage. But the
copy found in the Yeshiva
University library has the
references to Spinoza intact,
library officials said.
The caption under the
rare print of Rabbi Mor-
teira makes no reference
to Spinoza. It identifies
the rabbi as the "teacher
of the great gaon Rabbi
Moses Zacuto and other
great rabbis."
The publishers also added
a note of warning in the
"This portrait is a precise
copy of the old and very rare
portrait of Rabbi Morteira
done during his lifetime,
and we have obtained tlie
rights (to this portrait)
forever and no one may re-
produce or print it in this or
any other form. Transgres-
sors will be prosecuted."
According to Dr. Leiman,
however, there is no way
that anyone can prove con-
clusively that the man in
the print is Rabbi Morteira.
Still, Dr. Leiman said, "I
believe it is Morteira; I have
no reason to doubt the accu-
racy of the publishers'

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