New Library Acquisitions Include Early Modern Manuscripts and 20th-Century Papers

 

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld Collection

The Penn Libraries and its Judaica collections are honored to accept the landmark donation of Rabbi Michael Strassfeld's personal papers and Jewish sound recording collection. Taken together, the collection comprises forty-five linear feet of primary source materials for studying American Judaism and Jewish culture since the 1960s. Rabbi Strassfeld, now Rabbi Emeritus of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, and formerly rabbi of Congregation Ansche Chesed in New York City, was one of the leaders of the Jewish Counter-Culture movement which over the last half-century has pioneered dynamic new forms of Jewish life beyond the denominational structures of American Judaism. Rabbi Strassfeld was one of the key leaders of the Havurah movement, co-author of the Jewish Catalog - what has been called the “Bible” of Jewish Counter Culture, editor of the original version of the "Passover Haggadah: The Feast of Freedom," and author of several other works, including Shabbat Haggadah for Celebration and Study (1980), The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary (1985), A Night of Questions, a Passover Haggadah with Rabbi Joy Levitt (2000), and a A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice (2002).

 

Two Rare Early Modern Hebrew Manuscripts

At the Kestenbaum and Company Auction House, held in New York City on June 25, 2015, the Libraries successfully bid on two rare, early modern Hebrew manuscripts entitled Tavnit ha-mishkan and Hanukat ha-bayit. Both are written in the Italian cursive scribal hand of the author Malkiel Aschkenazi, who lived in Mantua in the early 17th century. The volumes contain numerous drawings about the construction of the mishkan (biblical tabernacle) and the bet ha-mikdash (Solomon’s Temple) and its holy vessels, such as the seven-branched candelabrum. These drawings reflect not only a concern with understanding the physical shape of these sacred buildings but also their kabbalistic interpretations.  The first of the two manuscript volumes, Tavnit ha-mishkan, remains unpublished. The second, Hanukat ha-bayit, was published only in the 1960s and contains variant readings from those found in the printed version.