by Sarit Kattan Gribetz
Over the summer, I was happy to announce the publication of our new catalogue, “Jerusalem in the Stacks,” which features original student research about manuscripts, rare books, and artifacts from Fordham’s Special Collections and Art Museum, all related to the city of Jerusalem. That catalogue is available for download here. Now, I’m excited to introduce you to our companion in-person exhibition, open at the O’Hare Special Collections at Walsh Library on Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus from August through December 2021.
The exhibit features several dozen artifacts about Jerusalem’s religious, political, cultural, and literary dimensions. Each display case explores a different aspect of Jerusalem’s history, the rituals that took place and lives lived in the city, the ways in which the city interacted with other places both near and far, how different people visualized the city in various artistic media, and how the history and the contemporary circumstances of the city are taught.
This exhibition is a collaboration. I curated it together with Magda Teter, with the help of Vivian Shen of the O’Hare Special Collections. Some of the artifacts featured in the exhibition were chosen and researched by Fordham students enrolled in my “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives” course in Fall 2020, and thus they appear in the exhibition catalogue; other books and objects are unique to the in-person exhibition and are not included in the catalogue.
The exhibition is currently open to visitors who are allowed on campus, and I encourage those who can get to campus to spend some time perusing the display cases. For those unable to make it to campus, I’m happy to be able to take you on a virtual tour here on our blog…
A City of Three Faiths
Jerusalem is a city sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims and a city of worship, prayer, song, and ritual. It is also a city that features in the religious practices of worshippers far from the physical city. This case presents three ritual objects: a contemporary Muslim prayer rug, purchased from Jerusalem, that features Islam’s three most sacred cities, Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem; a facsimile edition of the Black Hours, a fifteenth-century Christian Book of Hours from Bruges, Belgium (the original of which is held at the Morgan Library in New York), open to a page that depicts Jesus’ crucifixion, with a view of Jerusalem in the background; and a Jewish prayer book (maḥzor) for the holiday of Sukkot, published by the Kashman ben Joseph Baruch Printing House for the Amsterdam Ashkenazi community, which, as a diaspora community, directed its prayers east towards Jerusalem. These objects highlight not only Jerusalem’s centrality to many religious traditions, but also the way in which communities all over the world, from Mecca to Bruges to Amsterdam and beyond, find ways of connecting to the city through prayers and rituals.
Claims to the Holy City
Jerusalem is also a contested city. This case brings together Jewish, Christian, and Muslim texts that each in its own way stakes a claim to the city. Mary Angeline Hallock’s The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem, a work of historical fiction published in 1869 by the American Tract Society, an evangelical publisher, tries to educate young adult readers about Christian history in Jerusalem. The book ends with a hymn called “The New Jerusalem,” written by Charles Wesley, the Methodist movement’s English leader and acclaimed hymn writer. Chaim Weizmann’s The Jewish People and Palestine, published by the Head Office of the Zionist Organization in 1937, makes a case to the British Royal Commission on Palestine in Jerusalem as to why Jews need a national homeland. Weizmann uses a simple phrase to summarize the challenge that the Zionist movement sought to address: “It is a problem of the homelessness of a people.” A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, Jerusalem, published by the Supreme Moslem Council in Jerusalem in 1930 during the British Mandate, details visiting hours, rules for visitors, historical information about the Haram, including the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and includes photographs of the sites. Moslem Religious Life in Jerusalem, published by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Jerusalem in March 1970, shortly after Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem from Jordan, details Israel’s policy regarding the city’s holy places and provides a set of articles about Jerusalem’s Islamic sites.
From Word to Image
This case features drawings of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, based on biblical passages. Each drawing represents an attempt to imagine the monument architecturally and visually based on the measurements and descriptions contained in scripture. These drawings were produced by both Jewish and Christian readers of the Bible. The lowest shelf displays two editions of Timothy Otis Paine’s book Solomon’s Temple, the first published in 1881 and the second in 1886. The second shelf presents two different books of “she’elot u-teshuvot,” Jewish texts that deal with Jewish legal questions: Yom Tov ben Moses Ẓahalon’s Sefer she’elot u-teshuvot, published by Giovanni Vendramin in 1694 in Venice, and Mordekhai ha-Leṿi’s Sefer Darkhe Noʻam: ṿe-hu ḥibur teshuvot sheʼelot published in 1697-1698 by Fratelli Bragadini, also in Venice. The middle shelf features a wooden model of the First Temple sold at the gift shop of the Israel Museum in 2017, a cardboard model of the Dome of the Rock (also contemporary), and a 1951 Haggadah, which features on its cover an image of the Dome of the Rock interpreted as the Jewish Temple. The 20th-century printed adapted a printer’s design of Marco Antonio Giustiniani (active 1543-1552), one of the most important printers of Hebrew books in sixteenth-century Italy. His printer’s device features the image of the Dome of the Rock with words “beit ha-mikdash” (the Temple) and includes a Hebrew phrase : “Great shall be the glory of this house”.
Jerusalem in Sacred Texts
This case contains Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sacred texts, each related to the sacredness of Jerusalem. On the bottom shelf you can see a facsimile of the fifteenth-century Kennicott Bible, the original of which is held at the Bodleian Library at Oxford; these pages depict the instruments from the Jewish tabernacle, described in the book of Leviticus, and later used in the Jerusalem temple in Jerusalem. Alongside the Kennicott Bible you can see a facsimile of the thirteenth-century Bible de Saint Louis (the original of which is held at Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada in Toledo), commissioned by Blanche of Castile for King Louis IX of France; the pages displayed illustrate Jesus’ entry into the city, a prominent scene in all four Gospels. The middle shelf pairs a Qur’an, open to Surat al-Isra that narrates Muhammad’s night journey from the “sacred place of worship” to the “furthest place of worship” (associated in Islamic tradition with Jerusalem), with a facsimile of the Rothschild Miscellany, a fifteenth-century Jewish manuscript from Northern Italy that presents King David, who, according to biblical texts, conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of his kingdom, playing his harp (the original is held at the. Israel Museum in Jerusalem). The top shelf features an illumination of the heavenly Jerusalem from the Book of Revelation, as it appears in the medieval Flemish Apocalypse, dating to c. 1400 (the original manuscript is held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France).
Jerusalem at Passover
This display case and the one to its right feature an array of Passover haggadot, each of which engages Jerusalem in some way. Here, three haggadot depict Jerusalem, both ancient and contemporary. The two early modern haggadot – one published in Fürth in 1762 by Itzik ben Leib and the other published in Amsterdam in 1765 by Harer Hirtz Levi Rofe ve-hatano Kashman mokhrei sefarim – each contain the same engravings (mirror images, suggesting one was based on the other and engraved to copy the model but flipped when printed on a page), which were based on earlier printed haggadot from Amsterdam. The third, published by Sinai in 1953 in Tel Aviv, shows a man walking in the Old City on his way to a synagogue, which, when this edition was published, was merely a memory as Jerusalem’s Old City was by then under Jordanian rule with no Jews or active synagogues.
“Next Year in Jerusalem!”
Passover haggadot traditionally conclude with a declaration of hope, “Next Year in Jerusalem!” Some haggadot published by communities already living in Jerusalem or nearby amend the hope to “Next Year in Jerusalem Rebuilt,” adding a hope for full redemption. The El Al Haggadah, published in 1969 as an advertisement for Israel’s airline, encourages readers to fly to Jerusalem the following year using El Al: “NEXT YEAR – IN JERUSALEM REBUILT, And may we of El Al wish that when you do come you fly El Al, the airline of the people of Israel.” Below it we have displayed an Amharic haggadah made for the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel in 1985, the year following “Operation Moses,” a mission that brought over 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel (the Haggadah was edited by Yosef Hadana, translated by Yona Bugale, and published by Misrad Le-kelitah Ruhanit shel Yehudei Etiopia be-Israel). The 1990 fundraising haggadah published by the United Jewish Appeal, also in support of “Operation Moses,” plays on the verse “next year in Jerusalem”: it has the phrase “This year in Jerusalem” printed on its cover. The largest haggadah on display, The Children’s Passover Haggadah, published in New York by Shilo in 1945, features a depiction of Psalm 126, which describes the return to Zion with laughter and singing alongside a jubilant drawing of people of all age rejoicing.
These four books, published between 1823 and 1860, represent examples of books published by Christian scholars and organizations aimed at missionizing in Jerusalem or educating Christians about the city’s history. Each book contains a map of the Holy Land or Jerusalem, orienting readers geographically. Charlotte Elizabeth’s Judea Capta (New York: M. W. Dodd, 1860), for example, depicts Jerusalem’s topography, including Mount Zion, the Ophel, and Mount Moriah, which housed the temple. Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland (Philadelphia: Pressbyterian Board of Publication, 1843) contains red and blue pen marks, which a reader added to the map to show the routes from Scotland to Jerusalem. These books are displayed alongside William Jowett, Christian Researches in Syria and the Holy Land, in 1823 & 1824 (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1826) and Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Palestine and the Hebrew People (Boston and New York: Crosby, Nichols, and Company, and Charles S. Francis and Company, 1852), both of which begin with large maps that situation Jerusalem in the broader region.
The Environs of the City
The Mount of Olives and other valleys and mountains adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City house cemeteries, shrines, and places of worship. This case displays three stereoscope photographs that feature the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Valley of Kidron, in which one can see the “Tomb of the Kings,” build by the first-century Queen Helena of Adiabene. These places were important sites for Christians (and others) on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Alongside these photographs is a drawing of the Mount of Olives and the prophet Hulda’s tomb from an illustrated manuscript, known as the Casale Pilgrim, created in sixteenth century Italy that depicts synagogues and burial sites of important Jewish figures in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The manuscript’s small size would have made it convenient for a pilgrim to bring for traveling. Finally, Johannes Henrico Hottinger’s 1662 Cippi Hebraici, published in Heidelberg by Samuel Broun, illustrates many of the city’s tombs, including prophets, rabbinic figures, their students, and their wives.
Jerusalem in 3D
This set of stereographic photographs (along with the photographs displayed in the previous and following cases) was taken by Bert and Elmer Underwood on their trip to the Holy Land in the spring of 1896. The images displayed here are part of a larger collection from the Underwoods’ trip totaling 100 images. Reverend Jesse Lyman Hurlbut published Traveling in the Holy Land Through Stereoscope; a personally conducted tour by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, D.D, a 220-page narrative accompanying the images. To view these photos properly, you need a stereoscope, a device that looks like binoculars, which makes the images appear three-dimensional. Because most people could not make the journey due to financial or other reasons, these photographs transported them to the Holy Land while they remained, physically, at home in the United States or elsewhere. The photos thus served as many people’s first images of the Levant and Holy Land, making distant lands a little more accessible. Importantly, these images depicted biblical scenes reenacted in Jerusalem. They thus transported the viewer not only through space but also through time, and specifically to the time of Jesus. Nonetheless, despite its focus on the Christian past, the collection of photographs included holy sites from the three religious traditions, including the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as displayed here. The first row features three views approaching the city; the second row contains photographs of the city walls and city gates; the third row depicts the Dome of the Rock; the fourth row contains images of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and the fifth row highlights the Wailing Wall and a synagogue in the Old City.
Educating for Tolerance
This case features contemporary children’s books that celebrate Jerusalem as a multi-religious city with diverse residents. Meir Shalev’s Michael and the Monster of Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, 1989), illustrated by Emanuele Luzzati, features a boy who is accompanied by a monster named Metusalem (a play on the biblical figure Methuselah in Genesis 5:25 and one of the biblical names of the city, Salem), through the Jerusalem’s entire history from antiquity to modernity. Deborah de Costa’s Snow in Jerusalem (Illinois: Albert Whitman and Co, 2001) addresses the relationship between two boys from Muslim and Jewish backgrounds, connecting them through their shared love for a cat, who travels between the Muslim and Jewish Quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City. Likewise, Sheldon Lewis’ Mini Adventures in Jerusalem (Hadassa World Press, 2017) depicts two small children, a Muslim boy named Ahmed and a Jewish boy named Mati, who recognize that aspects of their culture and language are both different and the same, just as the two young boys are both different and the same. In one scene, Mati shares with Ahmed his word for charity, “tzedaka,” and Ahmed responds, “our word is sadaka! The words sound alike.” These books are paired with two photographs of Jerusalem’s busy streets and markets from the late nineteenth century, scenes vividly illustrated in pages of the children’s books.
“Jerusalem in the Stacks” was curated by Sarit Kattan Gribetz and Magda Teter, with the help of Vivian Shen, of Fordham’s Special Collections, who also took the photographs featured in this essay. The students who contributed to this exhibition include (in alphabetical order): Sera Allen, Amelia Antzoulatos, Ashley Conde, Adam Elbordiny, Liliya Fisher, Marina Francis, Sara Paola Guerra Rubí, Yuet Ho, Victor Imparato, Julia Kohut, Esther Leviev, Liam Pardo, Daniel Ramazzotto, Felicity Richards, Daniela Valdovinos, Hannah Whitney, Xinqiao Zhang. Special thanks as well to Shawn Hill, Emanuel Fiano, Nicholas Paul, Nina Rowe, and Jennifer Udell for assistance with research, and to the donors who have built Fordham’s Special Collections over the years, including Dr. James Leach, Eugene Shvidler, and an anonymous donor who bequeathed books from the Yosef Goldman Collection, whose contents were used in this exhibition. Many thanks are also due to Rita Houlihan, Dario Werthein, the Knapp Family Foundation, and the Picket Family Foundation for their generous support of these and related endeavors at Fordham.
Sarit Kattan Gribetz is Associate Professor of Classical Judaism in the Theology Department at Fordham University.