Sunday, June 17, 2018

Entries from The Diary of a Jewish Bookseller and recent acquisitions, June 2018

A non-local visitor, though Jewish, appeared unfamiliar and slightly intimidated by the intensity of the Jewishness encountered in Brooklyn. Before entering the store she timidly asked if it was required of her to wear a Yarmulka before entering the store.

A 26 year old visitor from New Square, NY, visiting the store, was attempting to use our online catalog. After some guidance, he was able to master the mouse and the keyboard, this being his very first time using a computer.

An occasional customer from Dubai, requested a copy of Ehud Olmert's newly released בגוף ראשון. He stated that he needed it badly and arranged for us to express it to NY from Israel, had it picked up by a nyc taxi-cab and placed on a plane to him in the UAE, as his country does not have any post between the two countries.

A Satmar Chassid visiting the store on Yom Ha'atsmaut, had a specific request. He was in search for, and ultimately bought, pictorial books depicting Religious Israeli Soldiers.

A chance encounter of a customer from Belgium and another from Toronto visiting the shop turned in to a spontaneous reunion. They learned together in Yeshiva in Gateshead over 3 decades ago and this was the first they have seen each other since. After some catching up on life, and a few hours of browsing, the two exited the store while exchanging contact info, promising to keep in touch.

A customer buying some books on Israel, remarked to me that his Catholic side of his family is more Zionist than his Jewish side.

An unrepentant customer, requested to arrange his picking up the books late at night, after his mother was asleep and he can thus sneak it in to the house without her knowing.

For the umpteenth time, I receive a call from someone who has a "friend" in Jordan, who found the seal of King David (or some variation of this theme), and is willing to sell it to me for a bargain of only 4 million dollars.

A visual artist had a peculiar request. He needed books with blue cloth bindings on Jewish themes, which he will use to create sculptures

While conversing with a visiting avid book collector from Israel, he mentioned that he had a manuscript of unpublished responsa of a noted Syrian Rabbi. Recalling that I had another customer who was working on the same Rabbi's writing, an impromptu meeting was arranged and immediate plans were made for it's publication.

I remarked to a famed Jewish tour-guide that I had noticed a remarkable rise in libraries being offered to me, of Jews who were leaving Brooklyn for life in NJ or the Five Towns. He responded that he was indeed already envisioning himself giving tours of Boro Park and Flatbush to tourists who had vague recollections of the Jewish Life that once existed in these neighborhoods.

A female book collector ordered a fine Haggadah Facsimile before Passover, while remarking that while other women are shopping for clothing for the holiday, she was content with adding a fine volume to her collection.

In negotiating a price for a rare volume I was selling, I mentioned to a German customer that I wouldn't be happy with a price under a certain amount. He answered in bewilderment, "but I am not here to make your happy, I am here to buy books".

Some prominent recent acquisitions include the libraries of:

Yosef Goldman
A veteran Jewish/Hebrew bookseller, Yosef Goldman was born in Neipest, in 1942, where his father, Rabbi Chananya Yom Tov Lipa Goldman (1907 – 1980) was Rabbi, and where the family survived most of WWII disguised as non-Jews. In 1950, the family immigrated to the United States, his father having a synagogue in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and where he operated a publishing house. Yosef attended Beth Medrash Elyon, in Monsey, NY. Goldman was the authoritative dealer on American Jewish Printings, and the 2 volume Hebrew Printing in America, 1735-1926, A History and Annotated Bibliography, which he co-authored and which was based on his collection is the standard reference in the field. Many prominent American Judaica collections were built through his guidance and expertise. Acquired were several thousand books from his collection, as well as his reference library, meticulously built over his decades long career.

Prof. Benny Kraut
Born in 1947 in Munich, where his parents were consigned to a displaced persons’ camp, then raised in Canada, Kraut was serving as professor of history at Queens College of the City University of New York and was also a member of the faculty of CUNY’s Graduate Center. From 1986 until 1991, he edited the book review section of this journal.  Kraut graduated summa cum laude in philosophy from Yeshiva University in 1968, then earned his M. A. in 1970 and five years later his Ph. D. from Brandeis University’s Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Ben Halpern supervised Kraut’s doctoral dissertation. Beginning in 1976, and for over two decades, Kraut directed Judaic Studies and taught Jewish history at the University of Cincinnati. He came to Queens College in 1998 to teach in the Department of History. At both Cincinnati and Queens, Kraut taught a prodigious variety of courses, including the history of Jewish civilization (from the Biblical through the rabbinic periods, from the middle ages down through the modern era); American Jewish history; the Book of Job and the problem of evil; the history of antisemitism and other Jewish-Christian encounters; and the history of Zionism. Both at Cincinnati and at Queens he was beloved by his students.

Rabbi Gershon (Gersion) Appel
Rabbi Appel graduated from RIETS in 1940; he was the last student to be ordained by Rabbi Dov Revel, and he wrote the eulogy for Rabbi Revel in the Yeshiva College student newspaper. He was also ordained by Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, father of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Rabbi Appel served as Rabbi of leading orthodox congregations in Worcester, MA, New York City, Seattle, WA, and Kew Gardens, NY. Rabbi Appel’s former academic positions included: Yeshiva University Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Jewish Studies, Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Stern College of Yeshiva University, and Adjunct Professor of Graduate Hebrew Studies at New York University.

Salo ( Shalom Moshe) Schlanger
Born in Lizhensk in 1919, was brought up in Düsseldorf, Germany, until he was expelled in 1938 with all other Polish Jews. After surviving the war in various labor camps (Plaszow, Skarzysko and others), he was liberated by the Russians on the Buchenwald death march. Settling in the Upper West Side in 1946, an electrician by trade, he spent his nights with his books, completing the daf yomi cycle 4 times and reading and building his book collection on the numerous subjects that interested him.


  1. Dear Sir, if you have aquired the Yosef Goldman library/collection, do you now have Rabbi Jacob Franco Lagarto's copy of 'Shefa Tal' with his handwritten annotation of ownership ? If that is the case do you intend to sell the volume ? Any information about this book would be most welcome. Regards Chris Sellars

    1. Good Afternoon
      I have not seen it in the part of the collection that we acquired, though parts of the collection will be offered at a future Kestenbaum Judaica auction, perhaps it will surface there.