Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

Basic HTML Version

Chair (Yeshiva University); Dov Friedlander, Secretary (Jewish
National and University Library); Fred Grubel, T rea su re r (Leo
Baeck Institute).
I t happens that I was in Israel when the first meeting con­
vened, so I was elected Chair in my absence. On my re tu rn ,
I wrote to the o ther trustees, thanked them for the hono r they
accorded me in naming me the first Chair, and reacted to some
o f the matters recorded in the minutes. I picked up on the
words spoken by one o f the trustees that “the Corporation was
a consequence o f an event — an auction — that occurred two
years ago” and I wrote, “While this is correct, it is, in my view,
an incomplete statement. The whole history o f how the books
and manuscripts came out o f Germany; where they came from;
how the auction and the results o f the auction were contested
and by whom; how the Conservancy Foundation was proposed,
by whom, and why — these are all very relevant matters that
should help us in ou r understand ing o f the purposes and the
symbolism o f the Judaica Conservancy Foundation and its ac­
tivities.” I could not participate in, and lead, the Foundation
without maintaining a ready awareness o f the many factors, be­
fore and after the auction, that seemed to me to be essential
to its background; and I cannot repo rt on the actions and ac­
tivities o f the Foundation here without providing what I con­
sider to be basic background.
The auction at Sotheby’s on Ju n e 26, 1984, entitled “Highly
Im po rtan t Hebrew Printed Books and Manuscripts,” engen ­
dered very strong reactions, both before it took place and after,
and led to unexpected revelations, to bitter accusations o f var­
ious kinds, and almost to what would have been a very dramatic
and traumatic court case. As will become clear, the Hebrew Un­
ion College was involved, sometimes involuntarily, on many lev­
els. Partly because o f my position as Director o f Libraries and
partly because I was at times the senior available staff person,
I was often the College’s spokesman to the press and others.
Accordingly, I may well be perceived as having an institutional
bias as indeed I surely have a personal bias. Since no one is
bias-free, I do not feel at all disqualified to present this survey.
The bare outline o f events follows: After the auction was an ­