Sunday, November 28, 2004

Anglo-Jewry sells the family silver (again)

Another story featuring the otherwise reclusive Mr. Lunzer, this time in the Jerusalem Report (the story is not online, but I read it last night at a friend's house - who is a subscriber, which raises the issue of why it has been impossible to buy the JR in Toronto for about the last six months ...but that's another subject).

ANYWAY, the JR story sets Mr. Lunzer's wish to sell the Valmadonna Trust library within the general context of the disposal and sale of several world-class collections of Judaica by Anglo-Jewish institutions. The most recent was the sale a few weeks ago in New York of the library formerly associated with the Montefiore College, founded by Sir Moses. Before that, the UK United Synagogue sold the contents of the historic library of its Beth Din. This story was scandalous; the US only realised it possessed such a collection (dating back to the eighteenth century) when it was found that a Dayan of the Beth Din, a known bibliophile, had been stealing books for years and selling them. As soon as it had finished covering up the scandal, the errant Dayan departed for Bnei Brak (he was never prosecuted) and the US sold the collection. Before that it sold rare English Jewish silverware from its vaults. Many years ago the Sassoon collection was sold. Over the years many other bibliophiles have sold their collections to the USA.

Put together, all of the above could have created a world-class museum/library.

Unlike the USA, Jewish cultural heritage is entirely peripheral to the Anglo-Jewish community. Jewish Studies at UK universities, although somewhat improved in recent years, have never enjoyed community support. Many of the faculty, and, in some places, most of the students, come from out of the UK. It isindeed difficult to think of more than one or two scholars of international stature that were born, trained and worked in the UK -- Louis Jacobs comes to mind, and the story of his treatment by the community is salutary. The Hebraica collections for which the UK is famous -- the Bodleian Library, the British Library, the Cambridge University Library, the Rylands Library - even the Parkes Library -- were all acquired and maintained by non-Jews. Few Jews in Britain are even aware of any of the above, and professors of Jewish Studies enjoy no status within the Jewish community. [The community attitude to Jewish schools is about the same.]

So ..... Mr. Lunzer's library is unlikely to remain in the UK, unless, in a change of heart, he donates and endows it to a major university. There is no Jewish institution in Britain that could house it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading through your blog. You have quite some interesting topics. To further expand your content on your blog, try visiting mine at Genealogy Search. Maybe it will help one of your visitors to find a relative from the past or to look up ancestors. Thanks!