Yeshiva University News » 2009 » February » 04

Feb 4, 2009 — Yeshiva University’s library has given new life to a rare illuminated Hebrew manuscript from 1765 by posting it online as a Web exhibit. The manuscript, called a memorbuch, from the German town of Auras (now in Poland) is unusual for its elaborate Rococo-style illustrations.

The manuscript features fanciful illustrations of Mordecai and Haman, and other biblical scenes. Particularly striking are images of mythological mermen in a marine scene. Such blatant pagan symbols had vanished from Jewish liturgical texts after antiquity.

“It’s an interesting manuscript from a visual point of view and historic because it’s a record of a particular community,” said Shulamith Berger, curator of special collections.

Memorbuchs (or memor books), which paired specific prayers with a list of names of the community’s deceased, were common in Central European Jewish communities from the Middle Ages until the mid-19th century. They were used for the Yizkor [memorial] services and although only sometimes illustrated, they were often handwritten so that names could be easily added. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, memorbuchs remain an important source for the social and religious history of the Jews.

The library purchased the manuscript in 1948 as part of the Louis Lewin Manuscript Collection. Selected pages were photographed and exhibited as posters from November 2004 through June 2005 in the Rare Book Room at the Gottesman Library on the Wilf Campus.

The book was produced during a rebirth of manuscript decoration that Central Europe experienced in the 18th century after the invention of the printing press led to a slump in the craft in the 15th century.

The scribe, Binyamin Ze’ev (Wolff Jacob) ben Elyakum Getsel Kats of Kempen, completed the work in Breslau in 1765 and it later traveled to the neighboring town of Auras, where it was dedicated in 1803.

Pearl Berger, dean of libraries who also holds the Benjamin Gottesman Endowed Librarian Chair, said the library is in the process of posting “unique material on the Web for research purposes and viewing.”

Beginning in 2005 with the “Prague Bible,” followed by an online component of the “Einstein and Yeshiva University” exhibit, there is now an extensive array of digital material on the library Web site, including electronic descriptions of YU’s archival collections and over 800 sermons of Dr. Norman Lamm, YU’s Chancellor.

“Putting manuscripts on the Web in digital format enhances access to our holdings and makes them available to the general public at any time,” said Shulamith Berger, who came up with the idea of posting the Auras Memorbuch online after it was digitally photographed a few years ago.


Feb 4, 2009 — Hundreds of high school students from across North America will gather at the Sheraton Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut to debate the world’s fate at the 19th annual Yeshiva University National Model United Nations (YUNMUN) conference. The event will take place on February 8 – 10 and is expected to draw about 450 students representing 42 high schools from both the United States and Canada.

“We hope to give the students the opportunity to participate in an intellectual conference, learn the processes of the United Nations and diplomacy, and provide a forum to discuss issues facing the global community,” said Yehudis Isenberg, the event organizer.

Playing the roles of real United Nations delegates, students will represent a variety of views, including those with which they may not traditionally agree with. They research their country’s position, adding both to their knowledge of world affairs and to their appreciation of the importance of preparation and critical evaluation.

During simulated meetings of the UN, the students will debate topics such as world health, disarmament, and trade and development. Each school will represent at least one UN-member country and students will be assigned to one of 15 committees, including the International Court of Justice, the World Health Organization, and the Middle East Summit. Beyond learning about politics, public speaking, and negotiation, students will meet and work with peers from other high schools.

The conference will also include guest speakers, Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel, and Tom Martinez, a noted speaker and human rights activist. Martinez, a former member of the KKK, will talk about his experiences and how hatred, racism and bigotry are not only extremely prevalent in today’s day and age, but provide a major impetus toward achieving of world peace.

YUNMUN Secretary General, Ilana Snyder, a Stern College for Women senior, will participate in her eighth YUNMUN conference. “In my senior year on Model UN, our topic was Darfur, and, as the delegate from Rwanda, which had seen such atrocities, I learned to care,” said Snyder, who subsequently chose to pursue a career in human rights law.

“It is my hope that the students will garner this passion for a specific topic. The most important thing is that each individual student connects to any issue they strongly care about.”

For more information on YUNMUN, visit the conference’s Web site at