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January 27, 1984 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-01-27

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

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Church Aids Fragment Search

(Continued from Page 1)
the search for ancient He-
brew fragments in Italy.
With the aid of the grant,
Benjamin Richler, deputy
director of the Institute of
Microfilmed Hebrew Manu-
scripts at the Jewish Na-
tional and University Li-
brary at the Hebrew Uni-
versity of Jerusalem, and
his Italian collaborator, Dr.
P. Francesco Fumagalli, re-
cently searched through an-
cient documents at the
State Archives in Cremona
in northern Italy and found
dozens of old Hebrew frag-
ments pasted to the bind-
ings of non-Jewish books
and wrapped around archi-
val materials.
Dr. Fumagalli, a Catholic
priest affiliated with the
Ambrosian Library in Mi-
lan, has done research in
the field of old Jewish
manuscripts in Italy for
years and is an expert in the
field.
The fragments at Cre-
mona and at numerous
other libraries in Italy
and elsewhere in Europe,
yet to be identified, were
saved by Church
authorities and laymen
from the burning of
Jewish books, particu-
larly the Talmud, that
were ordered by Church
authorities during the
Middle Ages. While the
Jewish manuscripts may
have been considered
heretical, the parchment
upon which they were
written was seen to have
some value as "raw mate-
rial." Thus, some confis-
cated parchments were,
in effect, "rescued" from
the fires by Church offi-
cials and notaries and
used to make bindings or
book covers, or simply as
wrappers for bundles of
documents.
The manuscript frag-
ments have great potential
value for Jewish scholars,
said Dr. Israel Ta-Shma, di-
rector of the Institute of
Microfilmed Hebrew Manu-
scripts, which hopes to add
films of these fragments to
its existing collection of tens
of thousands of microfilmed
manuscripts — the largest
collection in the world of
Jewish documents on film.
So rare are manuscripts of
Jewish writings from
Europe in the Middle Ages
that only one known corn-

* *

plete set of the Talmud from
that period exists up to this
day.
All through Jewish his-
tory, Jewish communities
have seen to it that there
was a "geniza," a place set
aside, usually in syna-
gogues, as a repository for
discarded books or docu-
ments. One such repository,
the famous Cairo Geniza,
was discovered nearly 100
years ago by Rabbi Solomon
Schechter, in the Ben Ezra
Synagogue in Cairo, and
contained more than
100,000 documents which
proved to be of immense
value for Jewish schol-
arship.
But the practice of period-
ically vacating these repos-
itories and burying their
contents in local cemeteries,
the burning of Jewish books
by the Church in the Middle
Ages, and finally the nearly
total destruction of Euro-
pean Jewish communities
during the Holocaust has
virtually eliminated any
hope of discovering an in-
tact European geniza.
Therefore, the Hebrew
manuscripts that sur-
vived as bindings and
wrappers in non-Jewish
European libraries and
archives can become in
effect the "European
geniza." Richler believes
that his mission to Cre-
mona has uncovered only
the "tip of the iceberg" in
this regard, and that
numerous manuscripts
await discovery in Italy
and other European
countries.
Richler and Fumagalli
found in their brief search
in the Cremona archives do-
zens of Hebrew manuscripts
which included folios from
ancient mahzorim (holiday
prayer books), pages from a
Talmud written in Spain,
excerpts from 14th Century
Bibles and fragments cut
from a very old and
magnificently-written
Torah scroll. Most of these_
fragments were bound up in
documents compiled after
1559, when there was a
major burning of Jewish
books in Cremona. The
fragments are now being
painstakingly removed and
restored by nuns from the
Abbazia (abbey) di Vibol-
done in Milan.
The Italian government,
through the Ministry of

Culture, is covering the ex-
pense of removing and re-
storing Jewish manuscripts
in Italy, which will be
photographed for the Insti-
tute of Microfilmed Hebrew
Manuscripts at the Jewish
National and University
Library at the Hebrew Uni-
versity. The original mate-
rial will remain with the
libraries and archives pos-
sessing the manuscripts.
Richler revealed that
while in Italy, he also was
able to secure the approval
of the Venice Jewish com-
munity for microfilming
some of their ancient docu-
ments.
The search for the new
European geniza will be
long, and the salvage opera-
tion difficult and costly. The
collection literally will have
to be put together piece by
piece. But the result will be
the rescuing of rare docu-
ments from the Jewish past
that until now were consid-
ered lost.

Friday, January 21, 1984 5

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1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons PARKAY Margarine,
3 tablespoons sugar
melted

3 8-oz. pkgs. PHILADELPHIA BRAND
Cream Cheese, softened
3 /4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour

Hebrew manuscript fragments are shown being
used to wrap other documents at the Cremona, Italy
State Archives.

1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 1-oz. square unsweetened
chocolate, melted

Combine crumbs, margarine and sugar; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform
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Combine cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla, mixing at medium speed on
electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each
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