Sunday, April 14, 2019

235 East Broadway - The Lower East Side - An end of an era The former offices of Agudath Harabonim and Ezras Torah

36 hours before crews arrived to gut and remove the contents of this iconic building on the Lower East Side, I received the key and permission to remove the remaining contents/books in the 4 floor building that housed the offices of these great institutions in the last century. What I found was a modern day Cairo Geniza, with files upon files, ephemera, books etc, all pieces of the puzzle known as American Jewry, filling what arguably served as the control room of Orthodox Jewry in the United States.

A team of workers, several van loads of books later followed by several van-loads of Geniza, the following morning at 8:30 am, the demolition team arrived and I tactfully decided that I would be better off outside the building when the walls came down. Unfortunately, much of the files were not retrieved in time. The files have been raided though over the last decades when the building stood vacant and any of the correspondence and documents that had monetary value were looted and now turn up regularly for sale at numerous different auctions and dealers.

The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada (UOR), often called by its Hebrew name, Agudath Harabonim or Agudas Harrabonim ("union of rabbis"), was established in 1901 in the United States and is the oldest organization of Orthodox rabbis in the United States. Among the well-known leaders from the Agudath Harabonim's past are Rabbis Eliezer Silver and Moshe Feinstein. In recent years, the organization has been under the direction of Rabbi Tzvi Meir Ginsberg.

The Ezras Torah Fund was founded in 1915 by members of the Agudas HaRabbanim and the Vaad HaRabbanim of New York. The founding leadership of Ezras Torah was composed of Rabbi Israel Rosenberg, Rabbi Dr. Philip Klein (aka Hillel HaKohen) and Rabbi Yaakov Eskolsky. Rabbi Rosenberg was president until his passing in 1956. Rabbi Klein was treasurer until his passing in 1926. Rabbi Eskolsky was secretary until 1928. The personality who would be most prominently associated with Ezras Torah was Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin. He served as the director of Ezras Torah from the summer of 1925 until his passing in 1973.

This is why you will never find a bookseller with a drug problem, you can get all the highs you need and get your adrenaline pumping with a book-hunt and the aroma of old books.

I will note that I would not put the blame on any specific person or institution for the unfortunate end result. Much of the files were looted by various people over the last decades and after the passing of the last head of the organization, the building's fate was determined by a large board of members, and as is often with such scenarios, it appears that the responsibility did not fall under any specific person and thus it was not taken care of in an organized fashion.

A video of me walking through 235 E Broadway

Many thanks to Rabbi Shlomo Ginsberg and R. Yossel Hoizman for their herculean efforts and assistance in salvaging and preserving what was possible. It should be noted that the Bet Din records were removed earlier and are safe in another location.

 I have yet to unload the van-loads brought in from 235 E Broadway, but took a quick glance at a random ledger and a few random checkbook stubs and was fascinated by the remarkable information within:

The recipients of the funds span all the stripes of the Orthodox Jewish world. Oganizations and rabbinical figures that would never share a meal, appear side by side on pages after pages of records of moneys received, all via the hands of R. Henkin under the auspices of Ezras Torah. I hope in coming days to be able to get a better assessment to be able to convey the nature, diversity, influence and implications of the activities of the Philanthropy and Activism of World Jewry that these records show, but for now, here is a random selection of highlights I noticed.

You can see in the accompanying pictures records of the following recipients of moneys in a ca 1949 check-stub book, the handwriting is generally that of R. Henkin:

Rebbe Eliezer Zusia Portugal of Skulen (1898-1982) receiving money to save children from forced conversions in Romania, sent via the Kopyshnitz Rebbe, at 132 Henry St and requested by Altshtater of Lakewood, NJ
Kollel of Brisk in Eretz Yisrael, for R. Yitzchak Zeev Soloveitchik
Yeshivat Harav Kook and the Diskin Orphanage Home
R. Avraham Baruch Braver requested by the Tzadik of Satmar (sic) R. Yoel Teitelbaum
R. Moshe Shutser of Stanislav
R. David Achowitz of Petah Tikva via R. Yitzchak Hutner
R. Israel Friedman of Husiatyn
Moneys for an ill granddaughter of R. David Wessley of Pressburg
Shlomo Samet of Ujhel who was confined in Ellis Island via Julius Steinfeld
R. Shlomo Zalman Horowitz (Potik Rav) for the Vizhnitzer Family in Israel
Rachel Friedman, an ill righteous refugee requested by Rabbi Ahron Kotler
R. Yitzchak Friedman of Bohush
for Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach and (his mother) Rebbetzin Auerbach
R. Meshulam Feish Levi (Tosh Rebbe?)
and from a 1962 Ledger:
Bene Akiva followed on the next line by R. Ahron Kotler and Moshe Abba Kamyan
Solomon Telushkin, who served as accountant for Ezras Torah (and the Lubavitcher Rebbe), received $250 as payment for his services (Noted author Joseph Telushkin is his son)
Yeshivat Porat Yosef is listed - but apparently received no money, followed by Mir Yeshiva
Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Blau towards publication of his book

and from a 1968 Ledger of Expenditures of Ezras Torah:
R. Matzliah Mazuz of Tunis receiving money for the wedding of his son, R. Meir Mazuz
Chief Rabbis Unterman and Nissim receiving regular payments of $300 each to distribute in Eretz Yisrael
R. Chaim Kanievsky and his father the Steipler receiving regular stipends
R. Michel Feinstein receiving money
R. Yisroel Belsky receiving $200, he was aged 30 at the time
Rebbetzin Kotler receiving a stipend after her husband's passing

Update 5/17/19:
I am excited to report that all the archival material that I was able to retrieve from 235 E Broadway has been acquired by the Mendel Gottesman Library at Yeshiva University.

Many thanks to the librarian Zvi Erenyi and the archivist Shuli Berger for their tireless efforts to get this done and for their efforts in general for the preservation of the Jewish Book.

An American Rebbe calls on NY Jews to eat Machine Matzah, Guest post by Zalman Alpert

Guest Post by Zalman Alpert, Judaica Reference Librarian at the Gottesman Library of Yeshiva University from 1982–2014

Several years ago my friend the late Rabbi Aaron Yakov Brandwein the Stretiner Rebbe of Boro Park
Z"L published a work by his relative Rabbi Isaac Langner the Stretiner Rebbe of the Lower East Side called Kan Zippor a Kabbalistic commentary on some kapitlech of Tehillim.

Rabbi Brandwein was a fascinating man who earned a living as a stock broker and was featured in the NY Times business section, including a picture with beard and peyoth. He also had an important collection of Judaica books and manuscripts. Past middle age, he opened a Beth Medrash and became a Rebbe His son leads the shul today. Rabbi Langner was an early Chasidic rebbe in the US and resided in the Lower East Side, on 115 Lewis Street and was well known among the Galician Jews there.

The book also includes an extensive biography of the Rebbe by my friend Rabbi Hershel Schwartz a master editor, writer and stylist as well as a serious talmid chacham. Rabbi Schwartz has penned important works such as a biographical study of Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner of Kerestir.

The Stretiner Rebbe

The Stretiner Rebbe, promoting the Machine Matzah

Title page of קן צפור 

As we all know the 19th century witnessed a major dispute over the innovation of machine matzo.
The Chassidic community vehemently opposed these matzo, with the opposition led by the Divre Chaim, Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz, many of the Galician rabbonim were also opposed led by Rabbi Shlomo Kluger.

On the other hand many of the Ashkenazi Hungarian rabbis were supportive including the Ksav Sofer, Rabbi Shmuel Binyamin Sofer.  Many German rabbis also supported the machine led by the Aruch leNer Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger.

I am unsure of the consensus opinion of the Litvishe rabbonim,but I doubt they were opposed, as a matter of fact the person who popularized machine matzo, Rabbi Ber Manischewitz of Cincinnati was allegedly a disciple of Rabbi Israel Salanter.

To this day the Perushim in Jerusalem eat machine matzo. Other groups that also do are The Breuers kehillah and a broad swath of the yeshiva community. Until the early 1980's the Vienner kehillAH Adas Yereim baked machine matzo. In the last 25 years the Ashkenazi Hungarian charedim have become neo-hasidic, even changing their nusach hatefilla and their Rav is now a Rebbe too.
Yet as far as I can tell no Rebbe has ever sanctioned machine matzo.

But Rabbi Schwartz records a unique event, in 1927, the certifying Rabbi of Goodmans machine matzo Co, Rabbi David Frankel of the Dukler Shul invited the Stretiner Rebbe to review the baking process there. The Rebbe did indeed do this, and although he was not involved in the hashgocha, he published a Kol Kore in the Yiddish Press calling upon NY Jews to purchase these matzos as everything there was kedeboei, in full conformance to Halacha.

Given the poverty of the Jewish Lower East Side and the unavailability and expense of hand Matzo, the Rebbe made sure that these Goodman's Matzo were under the hashgocha of a Chasidic Rav, related to the Kosyon and Zidichocv dynasties, and were in proper order.

Goodmans continued its Chasidic supervision to my childhood days, as the Rav Hamachsir was Rabbi Mendele Chodorov of the Bronx known as the Talner Vishnitzer Rebbe. Today Goodman's is part of the Manischewitz company, but interestingly, until several years ago Manischewitz was supervised by my good friend the Bostoner Rebbe of Lawrence, NY, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz.
By now, most Charedim are in the hand matzo camp, but as mentioned, machine shmura is still baked and eaten.
I recall reading that the late Belzer Rav after arriving in Israel adjured his followers not to refer to machine matzo as chametz.
There is much more to be written on this subject and much has in fact been published a good article is by Dr Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University.

The Halitzah shoe of Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin

This past week, I acquired much from the remaining contents of the former offices of Ezras Torah, which were located for many decades on the upper floors of 235 E Broadway, on the Lower East Side, sharing the building with Agudas Harabonim of America and Canada. The highlight for me of my finds there, alongside many other items of historical importance, was a Halitzah Shoe, found in the room used as an office by Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (1881–1973), during his many decades as director of Ezras Torah, a position he held from 1925 until his death in 1973.

Rav Henkin's grandson, R. Eitam Henkin hy"d wrote of his grandfather, that for many decades, despite all the difficulties and obstacles he encountered, Rav Henkin would work 6 days a week and climb the stairs up to the third floor to this office. In the late 1960s, when his health deteriorated, he would work on the first floor, in the offices of the Agudas Harabonim and in the last period of his life, when his health limited his mobility, he would continue his work on behalf of the Jewish People from his home. 

This shoe, which appears to be 100-150 years old is a fascinating memento from the illustrious career of R. Henkin and particularly the post-war years in which R. Henkin served as the ultimate Rabbinic authority in the United States. Already in 1928, Rav Henkin published articles regarding the issues of Halitzah in America, where women who needed a Halitzah to allow them remarry, often led to Agunot issues, if the brothers of her late husband lived in the old world. Visas were very hard to obtain, even if the brother was willing to come to America for the ceremony. Prior to R. Henkin, the Agudath HaRabbanim dealt with this issue as well and sent a letter to its membership in 1922 alerting them to this situation and offering assistance in helping these women acquire temporary visas to the United States thereby allowing these women to obtain a halitzah and to remarry.

Following the Holocaust, many surviving agunot, had their status complicated if they were married before the war and none of the brothers of their late husband were known to have survived. Under the Biblical system of levirate marriage known as yibbum, the process by which a childless widow and a brother of her deceased husband avoid getting married entails the ceremony of Halitzah. R. Henkin was instrumental in releasing many of these women from marriage as well as the many other Halitzah ceremonies which he performed.

The Halitzah shoe is unique in many ways, and to satisfy the multitude of different opinions as to how it should be made and how the ceremony is performed, the shoe has many peculiarities. This handmade shoe is made from leather from a kosher animal, the sole is sewn in from the outside with leather threads and the straps are leather as well. The straps are unusually long, to enable them to be wrapped around the leg several times, including on the back of the shoe, where holes are cut out, to enable the straps to be inserted. The shoe is not made in pairs, rather is a right foot shoe only.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Entries from The Diary of a Jewish Bookseller March 2019

A young teenage customer visiting the store, had taught himself Ladino from scratch and stocked up on literature in Ladino that he can take with him for his scheduled hospital stay following a surgery

An Alien visiting the USA on the evening of Feb 3 would have seen an entire nation watching the superbowl and 5 people in Mizrahi Bookstore digging through piles of books, oblivious to my insisting that I need to leave

A regular customer asked to order a new pair of tefillin and have it expedited in time to be able to give them as a gift for his wife for her birthday

I overheard a Rabbi and a Seventh-Day Adventist Pastor in the store discussing the merits of Islam and the dearth of critical readings of the Koran by Muslims

A frantic sounding caller requested I find a Jewish Bible of the version that is traditionally used for a Goral Hagra, insisting that the order was time-sensitive

I received a request for a miniature mezuzah, the customer needed it placed on a necklace to be worn for protection

The buyer of an Artcroll Shas I sold discussed with me his intentions to study the Talmud with his wife every evening

A loyal customer devoted his entire tax refund to his book collection, asking me to set things aside in the weeks before, with payment to follow once the refund is received

A first edition of Making of a Godol was purchased and gifted by a husband for his wife's birthday, stating that he was sure she would appreciate it much more than she would appreciate jewelry

a long term customer from overseas let me in on his secret: He was the long-awaited Messiah and will soon be revealed to the world. He emailed me the following:"Have you heard about the Rabbis looking for the Messiah? Gee, i wonder who that man is, 
Moreover i really feel sorry for all those who knew who he was, ant yet they chose not to proclaim him, unless you still have my letter, it will bring you millions in an auction when a Kabbalist a rabbi from Israel will announce me. Kol toov and Purim Sameah"

I received a request for a specific book of Segulot, the person requesting stated that he recalled having seen in the volume a Segulah that would help his son overcome his anxiety from his college exams

A Bride stopped by the shop a few hours before her wedding to pick up a copy of the prayerbook published for a Kallah, with prayers to be recited on the day of her wedding

I acquired a collection of several thousand volumes, all of which were housed in a small apartment, with each and every book with no exception shelved within a ziploc bag

A customer berated me for offering for sale books on the Ba'al Shem Tov whom he labeled as the Ba'al Shem Ra

Hearing a customer describe his collection sounded to me like a laundry list, he owned the Hat of Rav Yitzchak Kaduri, the cane of Baba Sali and a Tzitzit of Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg

A day before his scheduled conversion, the yet to be Jew came in to stock up on all the Breslov classics before he makes the plunge

A ten year old utilized the snow-day off from school to come in and spend his birthday present money on an 18th century Hebrew book and several old postcards

An order came in for several Hasidic Hebrew books with a request that the books be inscribed with a prayer in the memory of her grandmother in honor of her Yahrtzeit

A grandmother paying for her grandson's order remarked how she would much rather be buying books than pay for the tattoos and earrings that her other grandchildren were getting

The Maggid Revealed: Guest post by Zalman Alpert

Guest Post by Zalman Alpert, Judaica Reference Librarian at the Gottesman Library of Yeshiva University from 1982–2014

The posting concerning portraits of gedolim was of great interest to me, as I have been interested in this matter since age 5 "kad havina talya".

In recent years I have grown particularly interested in rabbinic works with frontispieces of their authors. There were few such portraits until after WWI. In the introductory remarks to his biography of the Maharsha, Toldos Adam, Rav Reuvein Margolies lists the classic sefarim with such portraits among them Lechem Shomayim by the Yaavetz, I have never seen this book and was unaware that a portrait of R Emden was extant.

R. Reuven Margolies in his introduction to Toldot Adam, 1912 discussing portraits of Rabbis

R. Reuven Margolies in his introduction to Toldot Adam, 1912 discussing portraits of Rabbis

In the US it was not uncommon for many rabbinic texts to include portraits of the authors, thus even important Rabbinic figures, such as R Tobias Geffen of Atlanta, R Binyamin Fleischer of the Lower East Side, Rabbi Saul Silber of Chicago and others included their portraits in their printed works.

Most rabbinic texts published in the US prior to 1945 were in the category of drash that is homiletics and the target audience were other rabbis, shochetim and reverends of all sorts, and were generaly in Hebrew. A sub-group were books with Yiddish language sermons aimed at baale batim (laymen) who enjoyed a nice vort or were called on to say a few words of Torah at a family occasion etc.

There were more than a few maggidim in the US in the days before 1945, though most have been forgotten by now, despite being very famous in their day. A few were more modern preachers מטיפים, preaching Zionism like the Rev Zvi Hirsch Masliansky who had thousands of listeners, and Rabbi Milikowski, the grandfather of Israels current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Others like the Bialistoker Maggid Rabbi Majrim (Meir) Hillel Rappaport, even accepted pulpits, he served as a rabbi in New Haven and in Washington Hts at my shul Beth Medrash Hagadol.

As an aside, snippets of R Rappoports sermons can be heard on a link on the YU web page, its' really wonderful material, all said with a classic niggun (tune). Many years ago Rav Efraim Oschry the Kovner Rav asked me a rhetorical question whats the difference between a zoger and a maggid, the great writer R Ben Zion Alfes was a zoger in Vilna, who knew the answer, Rav Oschry told me a maggid darshened with a niggun (tune) a zoger without !!

I suspect the reason for including portraits included vanity, following the style in the non Jewish world and as a selling point. Several years ago I purchased a sefer by R Yehuda Leib Lazarov (1875-1939) called Der Yiddisher Redner containing 160 sermons in Yiddish. My copy bears the stamp of Rev Zvi Berkowsky the Shochet (ritual-slaughterer in Monticello, NY.

Rabbi Lazarov 1868-1939. a maggid and rabbi based in Brooklyn was a native of Lithuania who published numerous books in Hebrew and Yiddish and a few sport his portrait. Der Yiddisher Redner includes a frontispiece and the author is indeed impressive with a long beard and Lithuanian style yarmulka, it was worth buying just for the portrait! In his forward R Lazarov is very apologetic for including his picture and says its not because of pride, if that were the case he would have included it in his classic work Divre Yehuda, but he did not.

So why then did he indeed include it ?

He writes that more than one person traveling about selling his book has claimed to be its author, Rabbi Lazarov. In Boston, such a man was found drunk in the street, in the West another supposed R Lazarov misled his audience and sold tickets to his drashoth, so to prevent future identity theft, he printed his picture for all to see לעיני כל ישראל.

As with All good maggidus this book has much humor, page 128 has a great story of a bear learning how to daven which is still very nogaya (relevant) to even Orthodox Jews.

A discussion of R. Lazarov's speech-giving style and a live reading of one of his sermons can be heard here, starting at minute 19.

a Selection of Famous Rabbinic Portraits and their Origins part II

This is a revised version of an article I originally published in the Jewish Press

Rabbinic portraits have been treasured by generations of Jews, for some,  as a way to remember someone they revered, for others, to be kept as amulets, or as a method to popularize his teachings. The Rabbis in the portraits themselves though, often objected to having their image taken and some took great lengths to prevent their dissemination. In some instances, the portraits were a method used by a publisher to promote the sales of the Rabbi's published work, at times reverting to creating an artist's rendition if no authentic portraits were available. Below is a look in to some portraits of famous Rabbis and their origins. 

Rabbi Elazar Rokeach (c. 1665—1742)

Rabbi Elazar Rokeach was born in Cracow, and after serving as Rabbi in Rakow and Brody, was offered the Rabbinate in Amsterdam in 1735. Upon his arrival, A medal was designed in his honor, one side of which exhibited his head in relief, surrounded by the words: "Eleazar ben Samuel, Rabbi of Brody" (in Hebrew), the other side containing chosen verses from Tehillim. The appearance of his portrait in a medal, brought to life a lengthy discussion on it's permissibly in Rabbinic responsa of the time, with R. Yaakov Emden stating that it would be forbidden and suggesting that it was done without the knowledge of R. Elazar Rokeach.

Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Schwadron, the Maharsham (1835–1911)
Only one photograph of the Maharsham exists, showing him with a siddur in hand, in the later years of his life. The origin of this photograph as retold in the family, is that the Maharsham was against his photograph being taken, and this one photo was taken against his wishes. On one Motsae Shabbat, during his reciting of Kiddush Levanah, the photograph was taken by one of his grandchildren, as he was reciting the prayers from the Siddur.

Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira (1806-1880)

Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira is known to have avoided having a photograph of his taken, and in his trip towards the holy land at the end of his life, he went to great lengths to obtaining a passport without the use of his photograph. The current portrait we have today, is said to have been made by an artist who studied his features at length and then proceeded to make the drawing in another location, without the Rabbi's knowledge. Shortly after his passing, the portrait was disseminated by his followers and printed alongside his published works. 

R. Yehudah Aryeh of Modena (1571–1648)

The portrait of R. Leon Modena or Yehudah Aryeh Mi-modena, appeared on the title page of a book he published, Historia De Gli Riti Hebraici, being the first sefer in modern history attempting to explain the practices of Jews for a gentile readership. Published at the request of Sir Henry Wotton, English Ambassador to Venice, for presentation to King James I, it was translated into many languages. The portrait of Modena on the title page is one of the earliest portraits of a Jew. Surprisingly, the portrait shows him without a head-covering, R. Modena justified this practice, by stating that the majority of Jews in Italy did not wear a head covering, and addressed this issue in one of his many responsa. 

R. Israel Meir Kagan, the Chofetz Chaim, (1839-1933)

In 1925, the Chofetz Chaim announced that he would make Aliyah and settle in Petah Tikvah, where his daughter and son-in-law, R. Aharon Hakohen resided. In order to obtain a passport, his photograph was taken, this photograph is the source of the familiar portrait we know today. It is said that the Chofetz Chaim requested from the photographer to destroy the plate after producing the picture, so as to prevent copies from being made, though a bachur from Radin convinced the photographer otherwise, and thus the portrait quickly disseminated. 

Yaakov Emden, known as the Ya'avetz (1697–1776)

The portrait of R. Yaakov Emden that we have today, first appeared as a print in the late 19th century, long after the Ya'avetz's passing. Being that R. Yaakov Emden discusses his father's portrait being made and his objections to it, and that a mention of such a portrait of himself was not made in all his writings or in his auto-biography, scholars believe that the portrait was most likely a later invention. 

R. Shmuel Eidels (1555 – 1631), the Maharsha

The Maharsha's portrait that we are familiar with today, shows him in his study, leaning over books and with long hair. The illustration incorporates the legend that the Maharsha had long hair, which he would tie to a nail in the ceiling while studying, to prevent him from falling asleep. This portrait first appeared in the 1814 edition of the Maharsha on the Talmud, printed in Vienna by by George Holzinger. 

R. Yitzchak Alfasi. the Ri"f (1013–1103)

The illustration of the Ri"f, R. Yitzchak Alfasi is an artist rendition, which first appeared in an early 19th century edition of the Alfas, published in Vienna. The illustration quickly caught on, and by the 1850s, it appeared on sukkah decorations, and later on postcards published by Meir Kunstadt. By the 1920s, the portrait appeared in numerous editions of the Haggadah, accompanying the scene of Ma'aseh BeRabbi Eliezer.

Chacham Zvi, Rabbi Zvi Ashkenazi (1658-1713)

R. Zvi Ashkenazi, the Chacham Zvi, was offered the Rabbinate in London, by the Sephardic Community ,and it was during this period, that his portrait was made. His son R. Yaakov Emden writes of the portrait in his responsa: He was greatly adored by the community, and they wanted to commission a portrait of him, offering all the love and honor in the world to him if he would permit it. He did not heed their words and refused to allow it, despite it being permitted under Jewish Law. Despite this, they did not contain themselves and had a master artist create a painting that was a perfect resemblance of his father. R. Yaakov Emden writes how copies of the portrait were made and they commanded a high premium from his friends and acquaintances. R Emden remarked on the striking similarity between the portrait and his father, stating "All that is missing is the breath of life"

Isaac Leeser (1806-1868)

Rev. Isaac Leeser was an American Jewish Leader, though not ordained, he led several communities in the United States. He was the first to published a Jewish Translation of the Bible to English and published comprehensive Hebrew-English Prayerbooks in the New World. His familiar portrait was drawn by Leeser's friend Solomon Nunes Carvalho, a famous American Jewish Painter and Photographer. Nunes is best remembered as an explorer who traveled through the territory of Kansas, Colorado and Utah with John C. Frémont.

The Ben Ish Hai, Rabbi Yosef Hayyim (1835-1909)

The famed portrait of the Ben Ish Hai, was photographed approximately in 1877, when R. Yosef Hayyim was 42 years old. The original photograph, which numerous artist's renditions are based on, was sent by the Ben Ish Hai personally to the Iraqi Jewish Philanthropist Saliman David Sassoon as a memento. The Ben Ish Hai's thoughts regarding the permissibility of photographs was recorded in his book, Rav Berachot, where he writes that it is permitted to take photographs, though women are recommended to prevent their photographs being taken, to promote modesty.

a very partial list of Sources used: :
Ben Ish Hai: בן איש חי - תולדותיו קורותיו ומורשתו לדורות page 103, Rav Berachot מערכת צ אות א
Maharsham: Oral family tradition as retold by Rebbetzin Yocheved Friedman, née Fuchs
Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira: As heard from his great-grandson, מסעור אזרוואל
Isaac Leeser: Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism by Lance J. Sussman
Chacham Zvi: שאילת יעבץ ח"א סימן קע
R. Yaakov Emden: heard from Prof. Shnayer Leiman, who owns the original 19th century portrait
Chofetz Chaim: heard from his great-grandchild, who remarked that while authentic, the portrait does not reflect the Chofetz Chaim's demeanor
R. Yehudah Aryeh of Modena: אוצר הכיפה volume II
Rabbi Elazar Rokeach: שאילת יעבץ ח"א סימן קע