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Embossed typsecript in gold and blue, with Hebraic writing alongside it.
Detail of a page from the Washington Haggadah, created in the 15th century.

Hundreds of Hebrew Manuscripts Now Online

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The Library recently digitized some 230 historic manuscripts, some of them more than a thousand years old, in Hebrew and similar languages such as Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian and Yiddish.

The collection, available online for researchers and the public for the first time, includes a 14th-century collection of responsa, or rabbinic decisions and commentary, by Solomon ibn Adret of Barcelona. He is considered one of the most prominent authorities on Jewish law of all time.

The digital project, funded by the David Berg Foundation, offers a highly diverse collection of materials from the 10th through the 20th centuries, including responsa, poetry, Jewish magic and folk medicine.

“The generosity of the Berg Foundation has enabled the Library of Congress to achieve a long-standing goal of making its rich collection of Hebrew manuscripts even more accessible to researchers,” said Lanisa Kitchiner, chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division. “The collection reflects an extraordinary manuscript tradition of immeasurable research value.”

Its existence and online presence, she added, are “both an inspiration and an invitation to admire, engage, draw upon and advance Jewish contributions to humanity from the 10th century onward.”

Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries is particularly well represented in the collection through numerous manuscripts on subjects including wedding poetry in Judeo-Italian and a considerable corpus on Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. Together, the newly digitized manuscripts offer a rich and often intimate glimpse into Jewish life over the centuries.

A simple drawing of a woman in a skirt, standing in an open field. A town is in the distance on the left edge of the picture, with a rainbow arching over the top.
An illustration from “Order of Prayers Before Retiring at Night.” African and Middle Eastern Division.

Other highlights of the collection include:

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Comments (5)

  1. How wonderful for all of us who seek to heal the centuries long, too often horrifically cruel Christian-Hebrew divide!
    Thank you!

    Rev. Terence Dougherty

  2. “…wonderful news!”

  3. Thanks for all your hard work LOC team!

  4. Beautiful.

  5. Dear Reverend Dougherty:

    I was born in 1961 in the United States of Jewish parents, learned American English — not Hebrew –as my first and primary language, and barely learned enough Hebrew in “Hebrew School” from 1969 to 1974 to read some traditional prayers in Hebrew in *some* prayerbooks (I might well be “lost” in trying to decipher some *very* traditional prayerbooks); while I am glad for the positive tone expressed in the Blog post about which you commented, I wish to say that possibly a better word in your phrase “Christian/Hebrew divide” would be “Jewish” or “Jew” — “Christian/Hebrew” (while your meaning can be deciphered) is hardly better to my mind than “Latin/Hebrew” would be in reference to relations between American Roman Catholics and American Jews, or “English/Hebrew” would be in reference to relations between non-Catholic American Christians and Jews.

    (The use of “Hebrew” here as a counterpart to “Christian” reminds me — even if this was not your intention — of when a probably-Muslim immigrant man from Southern Asia who was a neighbor of mine expressed to me his certainty that all Jews are Israelis — which is not true.)

    Moderators: You may block this, but I am perturbed by “Christian/Hebrew”.

    Ethan Kent.

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