Page 115 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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Where does one go with such an idea? In the course of further
conversation it was decided to approach the Vatican and enlist
its cooperation in this undertaking. But the Vatican is, in spite
of popular misconception, not monolithic, and after discussing
the idea with several departments within the Vatican, it was
clear that the best vehicle for promoting the concept was the
Vatican Library, for it was known to possess a fine collection
of Hebrew manuscripts. In the fall of 1984 Rabbi Hiat and Fa­
ther Fenton traveled to Rome to begin talks which might get
an exhibition put together, and in February 1985 another visit
was made.
Accompanying Rabbi Hiat and Father Fenton on the second
trip were this writer, as librarian of the Klau Library of Hebrew
Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, and
Dr. Michael Signer, professor of history at HUC-JIR, Los An­
geles. My involvement came about since I had accompanied
Rabbi Hiat to Poland in 1981 and assisted in putting together
the exhibition of Judaica from the Polish People’s Republic,
Fragments of Greatness.
Dr. Signer, in his own right, is an inter­
nationally recognized authority and widely respected specialist
on medieval Jewish history and Christian-Jewish relations.
Once final clearance and permission were received, which was
in November 1985, we began preparations for our next visit
to Rome, which was planned for late January 1986. Just days
before our departure, however, Dr. Signer called me from Los
Angeles with terrible news that his wife was very ill and that
he would be unable to meet us in Rome. This meant I would
have to work alone at this critical first stage.
Upon arriving in Rome, I telephoned Father Leonard E.
Boyle O.P., Prefect of the Vatican Library, at his residence and
told him that Dr. Signer had not accompanied me because of
Mrs. Signer’s illness. Father Boyle was especially upset by the
news since he had known the Signers when Dr. Signer had been
a student in Toronto; indeed, Father Boyle had been Dr.
Signer’s mentor when the latter wrote his doctoral dissertation.
The following day, Father Boyle made a startling suggestion.
Since I would be alone and unassisted at this point, and since
I had only limited time, he suggested that my work would be