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Hebraic Collections: Library of Congress, An Illustrated Guide

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In the New World

Iggeret Orhot Olam (Epistle on the Ways of the World)
Abraham Farissol Iggeret Orhot Olam (Epistle on the Ways of the World) (Venice, 1586). In this "map," the three-sided figure represents the New World, and the surrounding typographic symbols the nearby islands.

On his voyages of discovery, Christopher Columbus used astronomical charts prepared by Abraham Zacuto -- documents that symbolize the early beginning of the special relationship of Jews with the New World. Indeed, perhaps the first biographical note about Columbus appears in a polyglot Psalter -- a multilingual version of the Psalms -- published in Genoa in 1516.

The first "map" of the New World in a Hebrew book appears in Abraham Farissol's Iggeret Orhot Olam, published in Venice in 1586. The author informs the reader of "the three areas of habitation, Asia, Africa, and Europe . . . also of the far-off islands recently discovered by the Portuguese . . . of the River Sambatyon, and of unknown places where Jews reside, the borders of the Land of Israel and Paradise on earth," and of the discovery of a New World, a fourth area of habitation. In this pioneer work on geography, a shieldlike shape is labeled in Hebrew, "The New Land.

Psalter (Genoa, 1516). The lower part of the Latin commentary on the right-hand side of this page of the Genoa Psalter provides the first description of Christopher Columbus and his discoveries in a Hebrew book. What occasioned this digressive comment were the words "the ends of the earth" in verse 4 of chapter 19 of the Psalms. The learned commentator was eager to inform the reader of the intrepid Genoese who had discovered "the ends of the earth."

Dikduk Leshon Gnebreet: A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue
Judah Monis, Dikduk Leshon Gnebreet: A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue (Boston, 1735). The first Hebrew grammar published in America, its title page shown here, was issued in 1735 specifically for "the . . . use of the students at Harvard- College at Cambridge, in New-England," for whom Hebrew was a required subject. One thousand copies were printed, a large edition for an early eighteenth-century American publication.

Jewish settlement in North America dates back to 1654 with the arrival in New Amsterdam of twenty-three Jews from Recife, Brazil. The first book printed in the colonies was an English translation of the Psalms, published in Cambridge, New England, in 1640. The preface by Richard Mather includes five words in Hebrew -- the first appearance of Hebrew in a North American imprint.

Biblia Hebraica
Biblia Hebraica, 2 volumes (Philadelphia, 1814). Here we see the first page of Beresheet (Genesis) in the first American Hebrew Bible.

Published in 1735 for "the . . . use of the students at Harvard-College at Cambridge, in New England," by the instructor in Hebrew, Judah Monis, with the approval and aid of the school, Dikdook Leshon Gnebreet: A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue served a generation of Harvard students as their textbook for the study of Hebrew. The author, Judah Monis, arrived in the Americas from Italy before 1715. Little is known about his early years in America, though he may have served as a rabbi first in Jamaica and then in New York. Monis converted to Christianity in March 1722, and in April of that year was appointed instructor in Hebrew at Harvard, a post he held until 1760.

This first American Bible published in Hebrew was produced in Philadelphia in 1814. It was based on the second edition of the Athias Bible but, unlike that edition, it was printed without vowel marks. It was not until 1849 that a vocalized Hebrew Bible was published in America.

During the nation's first century, 1780-1880, American Jews grew in number from 1,500 to 250,000, in large part because of immigration to the United States from the German states. From 1880 until the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a great migration of Jews from Eastern Europe to the United States. More than two million Jews arrived in the United States between 1880 and 1925, when free immigration ceased.

Der Idisher froyen zshurnal (The Jewish Woman's Home Journal)
Der Idisher froyen zshurnal (The Jewish Woman's Home Journal), New York, August 1922. An editorial in the April, inaugural issue of this monthly illustrated magazine stated that the journal's focus would be on the "Americanization of the immigrant as well as the Americanization of the parent." Through the journal's retention of the Yiddish language to interpret the modern culture, the editors hoped to acquaint young Eastern European Jewish women and their mothers with their newly adopted land and with the spirit of its institutions.

"The Jewish Immigrant"
"The Jewish Immigrant" (Journal of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), New York, January, 1909. On this periodical cover, America, symbolized by a woman, opens the gates to the waiting immigrant. Two verses from the Hebrew Scriptures flank the open gate. On the right, the verse reads: "Open the gates of righteousness for me" (Psalms 118:19) and on the left, "Open the gates and let a righteous nation enter" (Isaiah 26:2).

The cover of a 1909 issue of The Jewish Immigrant features "Lady America" opening her gates to a bearded Jewish immigrant. The immigrant petitions America, "Open for me the gates of righteousness" (Psalm 118:19), to which America responds, "Open ye gates that the righteous nation may enter." The masthead bears American and Jewish flags intertwined and above them, the American eagle holds a banner, inscribed, "shelter us in the shadow of thy wings" (Psalm 17:8).

The first American Yiddish cookbook, A Textbook on How to Cook and Bake, appeared in 1901 and was penned by Hinde Amchanitzki, a longtime cook and restaurant owner. Written in the language understood by the majority of newly arriving Jewish immigrants, this cookbook served as an introduction to American as well as traditional Jewish cuisine. The recipes, which are based on the author's forty-five years of experience in European and American kitchens, include traditional Jewish dishes as well as American fare. In her introduction, the author promises that using her recipes will prevent stomach aches and other food-related maladies in children.

Leben Zol Amerika (Long live America)
Leo Rosenberg and M. Rubinstein, Leben Zol Amerika (Long live America) (New York, n.d.). Featured on the title page of the sheet music of Leben Zol Amerika are the three favored icons of the American Jewish immigrant sensibility: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and the Statue of Liberty.

Lehrbukh Vi Azoy Tsu Kokhen un Baken (Textbook on how to cook and bake)
Hinde Amchanitzki, Lehrbukh Vi Azoy Tsu Kokhen un Baken (Textbook on how to cook and bake) (New York, 1901). The first American Yiddish cookbook pictures the author on the cover.

Troyer (Sorrow)
Dovid Hofstein, Troyer (Sorrow), with illustrations by Marc Chagall (Kiev, 1922). Composed by poet Dovid Hofstein, this elegy mourns the Jewish communities of Ukraine that were devastated in the pogroms that followed the Russian Revolution. The illustrations are by Marc Chagall. Together with many other Russian Jewish writers, Hofstein was murdered by Stalin's henchmen on August 12, 1952 -- a night that came to be known as "The Night of the Murdered Poets."

Di Flikhten fun a froy in geburt kontrol (A woman's duty in birth control)
Samuel B. Grossman, Di Flikhten fun a froy in geburt kontrol (A woman's duty in birth control) ([Chicago], 1916). This drama in four acts was submitted for copyright deposit at the Library of Congress. It was written in the same year that Margaret Sanger and others opened America's first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. Women were alerted to the clinic's opening through the distribution of five thousand leaflets printed in English, Italian, and Yiddish. Police closed the clinic within ten days.

A remarkable collection of more than 1,100 Yiddish playscripts that were submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office is available to researchers in the Hebraic Section. Written between 1890 and 1950 and intended for the Yiddish stage, they document the hopes, the fears, and the aspirations of several generations of immigrants to America.

The rich collections of the Library of Congress, which include more than 120 million items, are eloquent testimony to the hospitality of America to the civilizations and cultures of all who came to her shores in search of freedom and opportunity.

Thalia Theatre: "King Solomon at the Thaila Theatre,"(1897). Yiddish theatrical productions were enormously popular among the over 2.5 million Jewish immigrants who arrived in America between 1880 and 1925. This elaborate poster from 1897 heralds a series of "star-studded" productions at the Thalia Theatre, located in New York City's Bowery district on the Lower East Side. (Prints and Photographs Division)

A Boychik Up-to-Date (An up-to-date dandy)
L. Gilrod and D. Meyrowitz, A Boychik Up-to-Date (An up-to-date dandy) (New York, n.d.). The garish colors of the sheet music's title page match the look of the pudgy, faddish, bejeweled "hero." The song is critical of this up-to-date dandy and, through him, the American scene that created such an image.

  HOME  Foreword  In the Beginning...  The Books of the People of the Book  Beauty in Holiness  The Holy Land
  In the New World  A Note to Researchers  Publications on the Hebraic and Judaic Collections

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