Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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will be relatively short and because the documentation to which
I have had access is certainly not complete. What I have used
is what I collected as events unfolded — the auction catalog
itself, news releases, various m emoranda o f the p lain tiff and
the defendants, depositions, affidavits, court orders, and, o f
course, my files, especially o f the affairs o f the Judaica Con­
servancy Foundation .3 Furthermore , given the focus on the
Conservancy Foundation, I will naturally concentrate on those
facets o f the multi-faceted background that are, in my opinion,
most relevant.
FIRST ANNOUNCEMENT
On April 13, 1984, Rita Reifs column in the
New York Times
entitled “Auction” mentioned that Sotheby’s would be auc­
tioning on Ju n e 26 a fifteenth century illuminated Hebrew Bible
m anuscript from Prague. Sotheby’s George Snyder is quoted
as saying that “In the 20th century, the work changed hands
several times” and that “the identity o f the owner was unknown
and that all negotiations had been conducted th rough agents.”
R e if s article was probably the first public notice o f the upcom ­
ing sale, and it included the first cryptic sign tha t Sotheby’s
meant to do its utmost to keep confidential the identity o f the
consignor, to play down — some say to obscure — the previous
ownership o f the books and manuscripts, and to focus attention
on one manuscript — later two — as the only real significant
items.
From April to Ju n e 26, 1984, the pre-auction period, there
was a growing crescendo o f activity behind the scenes, in re ­
action to the announcem en t o f the forthcom ing sale and in re ­
action to the reaction. When Douglas C. McGill, a
New York
Times
repo rte r , wrote the first o f a series o f articles on Ju n e
19, only a week before the sale, he made public some o f the
hectic activity, but there was much more going on than any
single person knew at that time. Actually, a r t historians Cissy
Grossman and Dalia Tawil issued a release to the press on Ju n e
14, stressing that “Jewish community p roperty . . . may not be
sold for personal g a in . . . Such p roperty must be reinstated in
ZAFREN / FROM HOCHSCHULE TO JUDAICA CONSERVANCY FOUNDATION
9
3. The documentation for this article is in these footnotes and, to the extent
possible, right in the text.