Friday, January 30, 2015

Christian Censors as Morality Police in the censoring of Hebrew Books - Luigi da Bologna

I recently sold a copy of the Bet Yosef printed in Venice in 1565, the Even HaEzer volume. The copy was censored by Luigi da Bologna a converted Jew working for the Inquisition as censor (active 1597?-1610): inscribed with his name as censor at end of book: Visto per mi Fra Luigi da Bologna 1599.

Da Bologna was not the most brilliant of censors, and the JE mentions several instances of his ignorance: " Luigi of Bologna (1602) deletes the words in the book   (ed. Venice, 1545, § 86), where the cutting of the hair is referred to. Hence he read  and took it to mean a cleric (). In the book (ed. Venice, 1546) the same censor strikes out the first words in, ("He who bathes while he holds an insect in his hand,") which he here connected with Christian baptism. "

In this copy of Even Haezer, De Bologna appears to have taken the task of being the Morality Police, censoring any words of sexual nature in which he found offense. The Centuries since have mostly erased his markings, and thankfully we can make out the original words. See below for the censored words:

A Conversion done by 3 Syrian Rabbis in 1974 - Despite the community ban

As is well known, in the early 20th century, the various Syrian Jewish communities in the World, including that in Argentina and New York, accepted a controversial community ban against the acceptance of any converts. This ban is still in effect today and has been re-enacted several times in the years since.

In 2007, the NYT published an article on the subject, which prompted the following response by Rabbi Moshe Shamah, a Syrian Jewish Community Rabbi in NY:
Letters to the Editor, Magazine The New York Times 620 Eighth Ave. New York, NY 10018
To the Editor,
Jakie Kassin is the son and grandson of rabbis and a dynamic do-gooder, but he is neither a rabbi nor a scholar of Judaic studies. The statements attributed to him in “The SY Empire” (Zev Chafets, Oct. 14, 2007) are a gross distortion of Judaism as well as of the 1935 Edict promulgated in the Syrian Jewish community of Brooklyn. That Edict was enacted to discourage community members from intermarrying with non-Jews. It acknowledged the reality of the time that conversions were being employed insincerely and superficially. Accordingly, conversion for marriage to a member of the community was automatically rejected.
However, it is important in this regard to clarify the policy of the community rabbinate and particularly that of the long-time former chief rabbi of the community, Jacob S. Kassin (the originator of the Edict), and his son, the present chief rabbi, Saul J. Kassin. I quote from an official formulation of the Sephardic Rabbinical Council of several years ago that reflects their position:
“1. A conversion not associated with marriage that was performed by a recognized Orthodox court – such as for adoption of infants or in the case of an individual sincerely choosing to be Jewish – is accepted in our community.
2. If an individual not born to a member of our community had converted to Judaism under the aegis of an Orthodox court, and was observant of Jewish Law, married a Jew/Jewess who was not and had not been a member of our community, their children are permitted to marry into our community.”
Based on these standards a goodly number of converts have been accepted into the community. Genetic characteristics play no role whatsoever.
No rabbi considers sincere and proper conversions “fictitious and valueless.” (The comma in the English translation cited in the article that gives that impression was the result of a mistranslation by a layman, a matter I made clear to Mr. Chafets when we spoke.)
In addition, the quote claiming that even other Jews are disqualified from marrying into the community “if someone in their line was married by a Reform or Conservative rabbi” is a totally false portrayal of community rabbinical policy. Many Ashkenazim whose parents were married by such rabbis have married into our community.
Moshe Shamah Rabbi, Sephardic Synagogue 511 Ave. R
Brooklyn, NY 11223

I found though a document which appears to show that 3 Syrian Rabbis in 1973, didn't seem to be bothered by all this and accepted a convert from Argentina, as testified by the document below. The 3 Rabbis who signed are Rabbi Avraham Rafoul, Rabbi Nissim Anteby and Rabbi Netanel Haboba.

Rabbi Yekutiel Aryeh Kamelhar and his accusations of Plagirism of R. Simon Moses Chones and others

Rabbi Yekutiel Aryeh Kamelhar was a prolific writer in the early 20th century and wrote many books with biographical content of Rabbis amongst much else. One of his books, Dor Deah ספר דור דעה : [מערכה ב]: ארבע תקופות גאוני בתראי בשנות ת"ק-ת"ר, published in 1935, includes accusations of plagiarism of some prominent writers of the day, who plagiarized his books.

On Page 89 of this book, the author goes on a lengthy aside and accuses several rather prominent authors of plagiarizing from his previously published works. He starts off with accusing Simon Moses Chones for using his work in his own work in Toldot Haposkim, also accused is Dr Kotek in Geschichte Der Juden. A. Lazer the publisher in Tarnov is accused of republishing one of Kamelhar's works under his own name. R. Chaim Soniag of Munkatch is also accused of plagiarizing the biography of Rabbi Yehuda Hechassid of Kamelhar in his edition of Medrash Rabbi Yehuda Hechassid.

One Doctor's Analysis of the Meningitis Outbreak in Jerusalem in 1910-1911 מחלת השבתא, או, דלקת קרום המח

In 1911 in Jerusalem, Dr A. Masie printed an interesting pamphlet regarding the Meningitis Outbreak in Jerusalem at the time, it's causes, symptoms, cures and prevention etc. His description of the causes of the disease shed light on to the way of life and daily life in the old Yishuv.
You can read it all below, but here is a sample:
Pages 27-34 is a discussion by the author as to why Meningitis was widespread specifically in the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem. The author lists several specific reasons for this, here are the first 4 he enumerates.
1. The setup of their houses where all doors open up to the same small shared space, where all the children and women congregate, and despite the outbreak, they have not stopped this practice.
2. The wet pail that is used in the communal well is left in the house and contaminated water is thus spread throughout the house.
3. The practice of going to the synagogue despite having a sick patient at home, thus spreading the disease. He adds that the Ashkenazis don't often wash their Tallit, as opposed to the Sephardic Jews which wash it often. The Ashkenazi Yerushalmi Shabbat clothing is also made of material which is not easily washed, thus spreading the disease.
4. The biggest horror he writes is the situation of the Ashkenazi Mikvaot, in the men's mikvaot they change the water only once in 2 months and in the women's Mikva only 3 times a year! Another bad habit is that several women often bath together as they can not afford to pay for separate uses....

Stamps of Shomrei Sabbath Colonie, Greater Boston ELECTION DAY===11-5-40"

I just came across an intriguing stamp in an old book of Psalms that I purchased from Rabbi Shlomo Poupko's library. Below are photos, here is the full text of the stamp:  "Shomrei Sabbath Colonie, Greater Boston; a traveling home, a camp for children and convalescent . Home in honor of our beloved President Franklin D. Roosevelt. ELECTION DAY===11-5-40"
FDR was indeed re-elected as President on Nov 5th, 1940

The Organization apparently stamped their books as a bit of election day advertisement for FDR. I was not able to locate any information as to this organization or what became of it.

Mishneh Zikaron משנה זכרון published in Jerusalem and publishing completed in St Louis due to WWI

Mishneh Zikaron was authored by Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel Singer, Rabbi in Buffalo, NY. WWI interrupted the printing process and created an unusual partnership in this publishing venture between the printing press in Jerusalem and Moinester's printing house in St Louis.

The book's printing began in Jerusalem in 1913. At end of book is stated that due to the war, the printing in Jerusalem was halted and the printing was completed in St Louis in the Moinester Printing Press. A look at the signatures in books shows that on page 136 a new set of signatures began indicating where the St Louis Printing began. Interestingly, JNUL has 2 copies of this book in their collection, both incomplete, containing only until page 136. Apparently these are copies that were sold before the printing was completed in the USA. The complete work, contains 214 pages. 

The book is filled with many interesting original thoughts of the author, here is his explanation for the source of the symbol Magen David:

An entertaining inscription by the editor, Harry M. Orlinsky, in honor of "Saint Valentines day"

I recently came across a copy of Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah by Israel Yeivin, with an entertaining inscription by the editor, Harry M. Orlinsky, which reads:
לכבוד הרב משה בן יצחק הלוי ערב יום ולנטין הקדוש תשמ"א
"In honor of Rabbi Moshe ben Yitzchak Halevi, the eve of the say of Saint Valentine"