Page 194 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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The love for the book was fortified and refined by two of
my teachers at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
As my “library service” (required of all rabbinical students), I
spent a year and a half cataloguing the six thousand volume
library of the late Professor Ismar Elbogen, under the guidance
of Professor Alexander Marx. Professor Louis Finkelstein in­
troduced me, when I served as his research assistant, to the
world of medieval manuscripts.
The Leeser prayerbook was actually the third item of Amer­
ican Jewish interest in my slowly growing book collection, which
I had started while at the Seminary. Before putting my newest
acquisition on the self, I searched my “library” for Americana
companion volumes, and found two:
Pirke Avot, Sayings of the Pharisees; Or, Hebrew Fathers
. . . Phil­
adelphia; published by the Translator; 1858.
[Seder gemilut hasadim nikbetsu bo ha-tefillot b’ad ha-oleh
ule-vet ha-hayyim ule-vet ha-avelim . . . ]
Gemilus Chasadim.
Chicago, B.J. Ettelsohn & Bro., 5637 (1877).
The translator of the first, a 36-page volume, was I.L.
Lermant, a teacher of Hebrew, who prepared this text in He­
brew and English for use by his students. The second, a 43-page
mourner’s prayerbook, is the first Hebrew book printed in Chi­
cago. These first two of a collection that has grown two thou­
sandfold over the last forty years are two of the rarest items
in the collection. Singerman lists only three copies of the former,
and only one — this copy — of the latter.
The Abraham and Deborah Karp Collection of Early Amer­
ican Judaica, acquired by the Library of the Jewish Theological
Seminary of America in 1990, comprises 1,950 books, 650
pamphlets, 700 issues of periodicals, 240 manuscripts and doc­
uments, 175 newspapers, 180 pieces of sheet music, 80 prints
and a like number of ephemera, some 4,000 items in all. In
time, it ranges from 1660 — Thomas Thorowgood’s
Jewes in
— to some historic pamphlets of the 1920s. In space
— it covers four continents, North and South America, Europe
and Asia. It includes not only works written or printed in Amer­
ica but also those which record or illuminate the American Jew­