UK: ‘Crossing Borders’ manuscript exhibit opens

“Crossing Borders: Hebrew Manuscripts as a Meeting Place of Cultures,” is a major exhibition at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. It opened in December and will run through May 3..

It is based on the library’s own Hebrew holdings – one of the largest and best Hebrew manuscript collections in the world.

The Bodleian’s Hebraica curator Dr Piet van Boxel is also librarian of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Centre.

The exhibit describes how Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together during the Middle Ages, and illuminates the Jewish experience across Europe and the Middle East in the 300 years between the 13th-15th centuries.

On display are manuscripts written in Hebrew, Latin and Arabic which illustrate how Jews and non-Jews interacted socially and culturally in both the Muslim and Christian worlds.

Similar decorative patterns, writing styles, script types and text genres appear in manuscripts in different languages from the same region, showing how communities in the same localities shared taste and technology. While Hebrew manuscripts from Spain, Italy or Northern Europe look different, they resemble non-Hebrew books from the same places.

Hebrew scribes adopted elements of the surrounding culture, sharing co-existence, cultural affinity and cooperation between Jews and their neighbors.

The illustration above left is a carpet page from the Kennicott Bible, an illustrated Spanish Hebrew manuscript of the 14th and 15th centuries.

According to the exhibit site, interactive digital technology allows visitors to “turn the pages” of the manuscript virtually.

One prayer book – the Michael Mahzor – produced in Germany in 1258, was illuminated by a Christian who didn’t know Hebrew; the first illustration is painted upside down.

The exhibit runs through May 3 in the Bodleian’s exhibition hall. It is open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 9am-4.30pm and Sunday 11am-5pm. No admission fee.

For more information, click here.

Israel: Harold Rhode, Feb. 24

Harold Rhode (from the Washington DC-area) will speak on modern methods of genealogical research at the Petah Tikva branch of the IGS/JFRA society, on Wednesday, February 24 at 8pm.

NOTE: Readers may be confused as to the designation of the IGS/JFRA society. As of January 1, 2010, the Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) and the Jewish Family Research Association (JFRA Israel) have joined forces to cooperate in all aspects of Jewish genealogy in Israel. Both societies are members of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). Michael Goldstein (Jerusalem) is president of both IGS and IAJGS; Ingrid Rockberger (Ra’anana) is JFRA Israel president. JFRA’s 400-strong English-language Yahoo group is now named IGS/JFRA. Watch for a separate press release on this recent development.

Tracing the Tribe knows Harold through many annual Jewish genealogy conferences and his close connections to our Philadelphia-area cousins. I first met him years ago at a conference in Salt Lake City where we spoke Farsi together – he’s multilingual in Middle Eastern/Near Eastern languages.

Unfortunately, Tracing the Tribe will be in Hong Kong and will miss his visit.

The meeting is in a member’s home; advance registration is essential. See below for email contact. If you are in the area, try to attend this program.

Harold has been researching his Litvak family roots for more than 30 years.

Using vital document analysis and rabbinic texts, he’s been able to demonstrate that the Jews were mobile and that our Eastern European ancestors actually resided in localities that covered large geographical areas, not single communities.

A past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, Harold has had numerous articles published in Avotaynu, speaks at Jewish genealogy conferences and is the author of “Jewish Vital Records, Revision Lists and Other Jewish Holdings in the Lithuanian Archive.”

A foreign affairs analyst at the US Department of Defense, he holds a PhD (Middle Eastern History) and speaks many languages, among them Farsi, Hebrew, Turkish and others.

For more information on this meeting, send an email.

Ladino Music: Romansas, folksongs CD

“Ladino Reflections” is a double CD set of Ladino romansas and folksongs, released by Hazzan Isaac Azose of Seattle.

Tracing the Tribe met Hazzan Ike in Seattle when visiting our Jassen family. He is a beloved friend of our family and of the Sephardic community.

For some 40 years, he has dedicated himself to the preservation of Mediterranean Sephardic traditions. Although he retired as the hazzan of the Sephardic Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, he wrote me that he’s busier than ever with many projects on his desk. Think of the energizer bunny!

“Ladino Reflections” has been 20 years in dreaming and six months in production.

Hear the samples and find ordering information here. If you enjoy authentic Ladino music, this CD will make you happy.

Songs on the first CD:

Pasharo Dʼermozura, A La Una Yo Nasi, Alta Alta Es La Luna, Arvolikos Dʼalmendra, Durme Durme, Una Matika de Ruda, La Roza Enflorese, Yo Me Akodro Dʼakeya, Noche, Avre Este Abajour Bijou, Yo Tʼadmiro, Kuatro Anyos Dʼamor, La Serena, Sos Muy Ermoza, Los Kaminos de Sirkedji, Puncha Puncha, Eskalerika de Oro, Noches Noches

On the second CD:

Avre Tu Puerta Serrada, Adio Kerida, Ijika Dile a Tu Mama, Esta Montanya Dʼenfrente, Arvoles, Yorran Por Luvyas, La Vida Do Por El Raki, Misirlu, Morenika, El Dyo Alto, Mama Yo No Tengo Visto, Povereta Muchachika, Tres Ermanikas, Eran Siempre Te Ami, Avrij Mi Galanika, Por La Tu Puerta Yo Pasi, Porke Yorraj, Blanka Ninya, Kuando El Rey Nimrod

For ordering information ($28, includes $3 s&h/US orders only), click here.

Readers interested in Sephardic liturgy as sung at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, should click here, listen to the samples and order this double CD ($23, includes $3 s&h/US orders only).

For international orders for the new CD or the liturgy CD, click here to contact Hazzan Azose.

Look at the calendar – Pesach isn’t that far off. Want to learn the Sephardic melody and the Four Questions in Ladino? Click here.

Tel Aviv: Ladino programs

The Cervantes Institute and the National Ladino Authority have created a 20-session program covering Sephardic history, culture and folklore at the Cervantes Institute in Tel Aviv.

The Tuesday evening sessions (at 7pm) cover important issues and aspects of Judeo-Espanol folklore and are presented in Ladino.

Sessions already completed included talks by Mordechai Arbell on the Caribbean Jewish communities, Moshe Shaul on Izmir, and Jerusalem’s Ben Zakay with Yehuda Hatsvi.

Future sessions will be:

December 15: The streets of Istanbul with Zelda Ovadia.
December 29: Izmir with Moshe Shaul.
January 12: Amsterdam’s Sephardim with Yehuda Hatsvi.
January 26: The Arie houses in Samokov with Mordechai Arbell.
February 9: Firenze (Florence, Italy) with Matilda Koen-Sarano.
February 23: Saray with Eliezer Papo.
March 9: El Kamondo Han en Estambol with Zelda Ovadia.

The course is NIS 200 for new subscriptions, and NIS 180 or previous participants.

For more information, call Lea Alaluf, 03-685-7240 or 052-835-5366.

Yiddish: Got a summer or a year?

Our family lost Yiddish and Russian back in 1905 when great-grandma told her kids, upon arrival in Newark NJ, that they were Americans and must only speak English from then on.

Of course, she herself never did!

Yiddish – the Russian disappeared almost immediately – lasted for another complete generation of fluent speakers, and an additional generation of those who understood but could not speak. And then there was the third generation, who knew a handful of words, generally used in the right context. The fourth generation seems to know only those words connected to food or used in Jewish jokes.

I don’t remember ever having a full conversation with Little or White Grandma (who was petite and had white hair, so as to distinguish her from the Big Grandma on the other side – whom I don’t remember). Our words were always translated by some intermediary.

If you are in the same boat, or your children or grandchildren are showing an interest, here are two programs that might keep Yiddish alive in your family.

The National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts is offering a seven-week Steiner Summer Internship Program (June 6-July 23, 2010). No prior Yiddish knowledge is required for the program which includes intensive Yiddish classes (three hours daily) for beginners and intermediates, studies in Yiddish culture and Eastern European history, distinguished international faculty, free tuition and credit for two undergraduate courses, research opportunities; field trips, workshops, performances, and more.

Full-time undergrad and grad students are encouraged to apply here by February 1, 2010.

And, if you have an academic year (September-June) to devote to keeping language alive, there is the Graduate Fellows Program, a full-time Yiddish academic year practicum. This one requires a basic knowledge of Yiddish, a BA in Jewish Studies/equivalent.

Those accepted will work on new and ongoing projects in: Yiddish bibliography, exhibitions, ethnography, oral history, education, website, publications and more; enjoy hands-on learning with the Book Center’s senior staff; and receive $20,000 stipend for the nine-month program plus health insurance.

Click here to apply, with the deadline also February 1, 2010.

What about a similar program for Ladino?