Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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JEW IS H BOOK ANNUA L
fervently hoped for their own Hebrew Bible. T h e story of how
their devoutly cherished dream—the transcription into braille of
the Holy Bible in its sacred Masoretic Hebrew text—became a
reality is unique in Jewish publishing history.
T h e creation of this work for the Jewish blind—and also for
many braille-reading non-Jewish students of the Bible—was
necessarily preceded by the adoption of an international Hebrew
Braille System. Such a system was devised under the In s titu te’s
leadership in the early nineteen thirties by a blind rabbi, Harry
Brevis, now living in Los Angeles, aided by an internationally
representative committee. Designated as the In ternational He­
brew Braille Code, the new lettering was essentially a phonetic
adaptation of the English braille alphabet. Thus, B is used for
Bet; G for Gimmel; E for Segol; U for Kubbutz. Where no equiv­
alent character is available, some other symbol is used.
Because vowel points used in printed Hebrew cannot be repro­
duced in braille, it was necessary to adapt special signs for the
vowels, semi-vowels and all other peculiarly Hebraic symbols
required. In the code, vowels immediately follow the consonants
they affect. Unlike printed Hebrew, Hebrew Braille is read from
left to right. This book was made to conform to the general prac­
tice of all Western languages in order to avoid a new obstacle for
the touch reader. Reading from right to left also would have
imposed tremendous technical and production difficulties.
Wherever possible, consonants and vowels of the English alpha­
bet were made to serve for their Hebrew equivalents in sound.
Five years of painstaking effort and considerable cost were re­
quired to complete this heroic undertaking—the transcription of
the entire Hebrew Bible into braille. Aided by an advisory coun­
cil of distinguished American rabbis and scholars, the Institute
turned out the work in twenty encyclopedia-sized volumes, an
accomplishment of outstanding spiritual significance.
The work of transcribing the master copy from which the
metal plates for this unique Bible were embossed—there are more
than 3,000 pages—was done singly by the late Mrs. Harry A. Cole
of Cleveland, Ohio. T he volumes were printed by the American
Printing House for the Blind at Louisville, Kentucky. T he proj­
ect was financed by contributions from individuals and groups.
Most appropriately, the preface to the new braille Bible reads:
“I t has blessedly been granted to us all to bring to our sightless