By Shulamith Berger
Curator of Special Collections and Hebraica-Judaica
Mendel Gottesman Library
Yeshiva University Libraries recently received a treasure trove of magnificent modern manuscripts, a generous gift donated by Mr. Jack A. Belz and his late wife Marilyn, ob”m. Mr. Belz is a member of the Board of Trustees of Yeshiva University, a Yeshiva University Benefactor, and the Philip and Sara Belz School of Jewish Music, which he generously supports, is named in honor of his parents.
A patron of the arts, Mr. Belz collected a group of hand-created codices and scrolls which are a veritable visual feast. The illuminations, the inks used to draw the illustrations, the parchment pages, the braiding on the edges of the pages, as well as the bindings and cases and the materials used to create these manuscripts are of the most beautiful, elegant, and richest quality and artistry. These are late twentieth century and early twenty-first century works, nonetheless they create the impression of medieval manuscripts, which have been perfectly preserved and housed.
The contemporary artists and scribes who produced these masterpieces are steeped in historic traditions of calligraphy and illumination; they ingeniously revived and reinvented these arts to produce these glorious works. The illustrations, bindings, and cases are the perfect partners to accompany and enhance the traditional Biblical and Jewish texts in the collection: Haggadot, Megilot, Pirke Avot, Birkat Ha-Mazon, and others. They bring scenes in these age-old texts to life and are a form of modern commentary and interpretation.
Here are a few highlights from the extraordinary riches of the Haggadot in the Belz Manuscript Collection in honor of Passover: