The festival Sukkot is associated with rain. According to the Mishnah, there are four times during which the world is judged, on Sukkot it is “judged in regards of rain” (Mishnah Rosh Ha-Shanah 1:2, BT Rosh Ha-Shanah 16a). Just as the academic year began, New York was hit by Hurricane Ida, which had made a landfall in Louisiana a few days before and continued on across the land making a turn toward the North East and New York, retaining, quite unusually an incredible amount of water. As it hit the New York tristate area on September 1, 2021, it caused catastrophic damage, homes were destroyed and lives were lost. Fordham was not spared. And the Walsh Family Library in the Bronx campus suffered most devastating damage of all university buildings.
According to the director of Fordham libraries, Linda Loschiavo, as Sebastian Diaz reported in the Fordham Ram, “Everything in the staff areas (Cataloging, Acquisitions, Serials, the EIC) was under four plus feet of water and destroyed.” Michael Wares, Assistant Director of Technical Services in Fordham University Libraries, took a photo from one of the offices.
Some of the books lost were from the growing Judaica collection, one cart, waiting to be catalogued was lost in the water. A number of recent facsimile acquisitions generously donated by Dr. James Leach over the summer were irreparably damaged, among them a facsimile of Megillat Esther. Other lost manuscript facsimiles included a copy–numbered 3–of The Skevra Evangeliar, which is the fine facsimile edition of the so-called Lemberg Gospels (original residing in the Biblioteka Narodowa of Warsaw, Poland, Rps 8101 III).
Astonishingly, the library remained open. Staff, now displaced by the flood, moved to other parts of the library, including the back offices of the Special Collections and Archives, which are the home of Fordham’s growing Judaica Collection. And even in the midst of this crisis, on September 12th, the Special Collections and Archives accommodated the visit of 54 undergraduate students in two of our classes UHC 1851: Jews in the Modern World and ICC HIST 4312: Antisemitism and Racism (team taught by me and Professor Westenley Alcenat).
Vivan Shen, of the Special Collections and Archives, made sure that our students would not be denied the incredible experience of learning with historical artifacts. In those two classes, students were able to see and touch history: the transition from the medieval manuscript era to early printing technology, to more complex sixteenth century printing, and on to the 20th century. They were able to see the development of Jewish culture in conversation with the environment and societies in which they lived through books printed in sixteenth and seventeenth century Italy, even nineteenth century India and Iraq, and some amazing artifacts from the Jewish communities in the Bronx. They were also able to see how hatred is manufactured and disseminated and how it is possible to push back. (In 2019 students from my course on antisemitism co-curated an exhibit “Media Technology and the Dissemination of Hate” using special collections).
In this difficult time, days after a catastrophic flood and after a very difficult year, being together in person, in the library, touching and experiencing history, was indeed uplifting and inspiring. It could not be possible without the support and commitment of the library director and staff.
Magda Teter is Professor of History and the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies at Fordham University. In Fall 2021, she teaches HIST 1851: Jews in the Modern World and, with Professor Westenley Alcenat, HIST 4312: Antisemitism and Racism.
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.
In August 2020, a new fall semester began. Whereas in past years there was palpable excitement on campus as students returned from summer break and reunited with friends in classrooms and hallways, this year was different. After a difficult spring, during which Fordham abruptly closed mid-semester in March 2020 when New York City and much of the rest of the world went into lockdown, and a harrowing summer of illness, death, and isolation, we were back in class but not on campus. I met my students on Zoom, in our virtual classroom, each student a small tile on my screen.
How would we manage to learn together in this new setting and under such challenging circumstances? I wondered. And, more importantly, how would we become a community – which, to my mind, is the foundation upon which deep learning is built – with all of us so far away from one another?
I need not have feared. In the second week of our semester, I sensed that before we could turn to analyzing artifacts and discussing texts, my students were eager to check in with one another, to hear how their classmates were doing. How was Hannah handling quarantine? Did Liliya find a job? Did Adam make it back to New York? And so, every other week, we took a few minutes to share our “highs” and “lows.” As I look back at that semester, my “low” was that we weren’t able to meet each other in person and discuss our sources around an actual seminar table, as I have done with my students in semesters past; the cadence of a voice or the squinting of an eye is often enough to signal that we might need to spend more time unpacking an idea, and a subtle knowing smile can prompt me to encourage a shy student to share a brilliant idea I see taking shape in her mind. But my “high” more than made up for it: watching my students embrace the challenge of learning in far from ideal circumstances, and seeing how dedicated they were to this task, even as they were caring for sick relatives, working multiple jobs, or zooming from disparate time zones – and learning so much.
Despite pandemic and political upheaval, I set high course expectations. As a final project, each student was asked to choose a manuscript, facsimile, or book from Fordham’s Special Collections or an artifact from Fordham’s Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art that related to the topic of our course; conduct original research; write a catalogue essay; and, collaboratively, curate an exhibition. Most students worked remotely, accessing manuscripts and library resources only digitally. Together, we created an exhibit catalogue that is now online (you can download it here). What these students accomplished is a testament to how much can be done these days in a virtual world, and also no doubt reveals its limits.
The course, titled “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian, Muslim Perspectives,” centered on the history of Jerusalem from the Jebusites to the present day, focusing especially on the city’s importance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims across the centuries. During our class sessions, we examined archaeological, architectural, and artistic sources; passages from the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Qur’an, along with their rich traditions of commentaries; accounts of pilgrimage and travel; legal and historiographical texts; and many other genres, all designed to provide diverse angles through which to study Jerusalem’s rich history. This final project was designed to encourage students to continue these explorations independently, by pulling yet another source off the shelf, closely analyzing it, and contributing their own piece to the study of Jerusalem’s history. By producing their own original scholarship, I hoped that my students would not only learn some of the skills it takes to create new knowledge but also come to recognize the power that they have to do so – and, most importantly, the sense of responsibility to do so with honesty and integrity to the sources, people, and histories in them.
The construction of space, both physical and conceptual, is always an overarching theme of my Jerusalem course. How could it not be in a course centered on a city? But this semester, the theme of space resonated in new ways. Examining the topic of space and our relationship to different spaces was especially poignant during a time when most of us were largely confined to our personal spaces, when we were unable to gather together in the space of a classroom, when proximity itself was dangerous and even lethal. Yet one of the most comforting aspects of this semester for me was when we were able to join together in our zoom room to create a virtual space – a virtual classroom – in lieu of a physical one. I cannot help but wonder how our own situatedness in space affected the ways in which we studied the space of Jerusalem, and how studying the history of a place so far away impacted our experiences of staying put. When we discussed the idea of sacred space, reflections about domestic spaces entered into the conversation (a theme I don’t recall from previous semester when I taught this same course): a dining room table, a bedroom, a garden, a view. Being home because of the pandemic and reading about the temple as God’s dwelling prompted us to consider the many ways in which the domestic and the cultic intersect in ancient sources. When we analyzed pilgrimage narratives, we wondered anew about the function that such tales of travel served for those unable to travel. Verbal and visual descriptions of a pilgrim making her way through the city, building by building and street by street, helped us vicariously make our own way through Jerusalem from afar in a context in which traveling to the city was impossible for us, as it was for the original recipients of these medieval texts.
In every course I teach, I always remind students that context matters. The context (historical, cultural, political, literary, artistic, economic, and so on) of our sources matters; the context of later readers (i.e. the transmission history of our sources) matters; and our own context (as interpreters of texts, as historians, as people) matters. Reflecting on our own context as learners encourages us to be aware of what we bring of ourselves and our circumstances to our readings of sources, and it also prompts us to be deliberate in how we apply our new-found understanding of the past to our current world. I’ve therefore shared some reflections about teaching and learning during pandemic times to provide some context for the work we produced together.
Overview of “Jerusalem in the Stacks” Catalogue
If one can’t travel far, one is prompted to make the most of what one has at home. This is exactly what we did here in our exhibition catalogue. This catalogue’s title, “Jerusalem in the Stacks,” gestures to the many unexpected places in Fordham University’s library where one can find Jerusalem if one is looking for it. All one needs to do is take a book off the shelf, peer inside, and begin to ask questions. That’s what each student did with a single item at the library; together, it became a collection.
The catalogue is divided into four themes: “Devotion”; “Regional Relations”; “Visualizing the City”; and “Education.” Each theme represents a different aspect of Jerusalem’s history, and each manuscript and object within the catalogue was researched by a different student.
The section titled “Devotion” highlights four objects that represent different modes of devotion – biblical interpretation, prayer, music, and religious rituals – both in the city and by those who incorporate memories of or aspirations for the city from afar.
A Glossa Ordinaria on the Minor Prophets highlights the rich ancient and medieval commentary tradition that engaged with biblical references to Jerusalem; Jerome’s translation of the biblical books is dedicated to Paula and Eustochium, two fourth-century women with deep ties to Jerusalem.
The Rothschild Miscellany represents a collection of Jewish texts of different genres, in which Jerusalem often appears, not least in the section on the Psalms and through an elaborately illuminated depiction of King David with his harp, which appears in the opening pages of the manuscript.
Jerusalem also appears frequently in the Saint Michel Hours, a book of devotional prayers that brought monastic piety into lay settings.
Finally, a simple piriform unguentarium from Jerusalem, likely used in ancient funerary rituals, reminds us that in addition to texts – their study and recitation – objects played important roles in devotional practices in the city.
“Regional Relations” highlights Jerusalem’s place in a broader network of cities, empires, trade routes, and diasporas. As with all cities, it is not only defined by its local history and those who inhabit it, but also by others who interact with the city from outside it (to visit, to conquer, to rule over it, to write poetry about it) and by the relations it has with other places. In this section of the exhibition, we explore five examples of contact between Jerusalem and its region: the Roman Empire, late antique Egypt, medieval France, modern Amsterdam and England.
A portrait of Hadrian from the Levant demonstrates how Roman imperial figures found creative ways of inserting themselves into the daily lives of their subjects, even those far from Rome. Through such portraits, several of which have been discovered in the region, the Roman emperor Hadrian – who re-founded Jerusalem as a Roman colony and named it “Aelia Capitolina” – was able to fashion himself as both an omnipresent, even divine, figure, and also a local resident present on a daily basis.
The path of a single piece of Roman glass, however, reminds us that imperial travel to Jerusalem was but one part of far more intricate regional relations, which also entailed the production and shipment of goods along Roman roads, including glass from Egypt to Jerusalem and elsewhere.
This section also includes an indulgence from William of Adam, a French Dominican who spent much of his life traveling the world. Though the indulgence was produced and remained in France, William is known for his calls to embark on a new Crusade to reconquer Jerusalem, reminding us that even local politics often set its sights on global ambitions, indulgences having long played a role in the Crusades.
An Ashkenazi Mahzor with Yiddish commentary from Amsterdam spotlights a particular Jewish community that made its home not in the holy land but in Europe, and its annual celebration of Sukkot, a holiday with deep connections to the temple in Jerusalem, not least because of traditions that link the dedication of the two temples with this holiday.
Likewise, Chaim Weitzman’s little pamphlet arguing for why the Jews ought to return and live in Palestine uses ancient traditions about Jewish attachment to Jerusalem to argue for their modern return in the twentieth century.
How did people imagine Jerusalem? Artists depicted Jerusalem in the media of their day, whether through elaborate illuminations, simple illustrations, affective drawings, or photographs. Each image tells us just as much (or more) about the person who created the image as it does about the city. The third section of the exhibition features examples of “Visualizing Jerusalem,” highlighting diverse modes of visual expression, each preserved in a different type of source, from the medieval, early modern, and modern periods.
The Flemish Apocalypse’s illumination of a New Jerusalem attempts to illustrate a heavenly city, along the lines of several other Apocalypses that provide differing visual interpretations of the Book of Revelation’s reimagination of the holy city.
The illustration of Jerusalem in a manuscript of Nicholas Lyre’s Commentary on Ezekiel depicts the city more simply and schematically, with walls and gates, leaving the details to the imagination of the reader.
In contrast, a sixteenth-century Jewish Italian pilgrimage text provides quite down-to-earth drawings of sites along an actual pilgrimage route, depicting sacred tombs along the way to Jerusalem paired with the city’s many gates, sacred sites, and shrines, and commentary written above and beneath each drawing. The manuscript, signed by its Florentine owner, is small enough to fit into a travel bag to accompany a pilgrim to the Holy Land.
Complementing these early modern drawings is a set of 30 stereoscopic photographs that capture a pilgrimage from Jaffa to Jerusalem. These photographs are part of a collection of a 100 such photographs, accompanied by detailed explanations of each location on the back of each card. These photographs, which became 3-dimensional images when viewed through a stereoscope, were designed to transport American Protestant readers of the Bible to the holy land without ever leaving their living rooms. They also served as supplemental religious educational materials.
The last theme explored in the catalogue is “Education.” Because of Jerusalem’s importance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the city is often found in educational contexts in all three religious traditions, from family rituals to children’s literature. In this section, we feature books that were designed to be used in familial contexts; each book cultivates a particular type of relationship with the city.
We begin with the Barcelona Haggadah, used by Catalonian Jews during the holiday of Passover. The Passover seder, a discussion and reenactment of the Israelite exodus from slavery in Egypt, is designed primarily as an educational experience in which parents teach their children this part of their heritage. The manuscript includes a full page that reads “Next Year in Jerusalem,” a traditional exclamation recited towards the conclusion of the seder ceremony, which functions as a hope for a good future and an eventual return to Jerusalem.
A mid-nineteenth-century chapter book titled The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem narrates Josephus’ account of the Jewish revolt against Rome in the late 60s C.E. in the form of a story that a father tells his two young children. This book, published by the American Tract Society, an Evangelical Christian institution, fosters interest in the ancient history of Jerusalem, in particular before and after the time of Jesus, and ends with Charles Wesley’s hymn, “The New Jerusalem.”
A more recent illustrated children’s book, Michael and the Monster of Jerusalem, attempts to tell a more religiously pluralistic history of Jerusalem as a city sacred to three religious traditions and therefore also a city that has found itself in the midst of conflict for centuries. This history is narrated not by a parent but by an imaginary monster named Methusalem, a name that evokes both the biblical figure “Methuselah,” the oldest man who ever lived, and the city of Jerusalem, called “Salem.” The book contains a preface written by the former mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, who playfully bemoans not having heard of this “non-tax-paying resident of the city” until reading Michael’s tale.
Finally, the catalogue ends with an exploration of books that are explicitly written to promote peace among Jerusalem’s diverse religious populations as well as among those outside the city who likewise feel deeply connected to the city from afar. Both stories feature pairs of Jewish and Muslim boys who discover, through the course of their interactions with one another, that they have just as many similarities as differences, and that one of the things that binds them is their love of their city, Jerusalem.
Focusing on items that are found in Fordham’s collection – whether original manuscripts or facsimiles – forced us to be creative in the connections we made. We weren’t able to resort to the most famous objects found at the Met or the British Museum. As a result, there are quite a few objects that are remarkable precisely because they are quite ordinary, such as a Mahzor that a regular congregant would hold in a synagogue in Amsterdam, or a stained book of hours with tattered pages that must have been used and cherished before anyone thought to preserve it. The limitations of the collection also prompted us to consider books written and published in the US that touch on the history of Jerusalem, and to wonder what role they played for American readers – including readers in our very own university library.
The artifacts cover much ground, from ancient glass to medieval manuscripts to modern literature. But there are also significant gaps, which reflect absences in Fordham’s collection. The most striking absence is that of Islamic texts. Fordham has long collected Christian materials, and more recently began acquiring Judaica as well, but it has not yet begun to build a substantial collection of rare Islamic texts. In class conversations, we brainstormed various ways of dealing with this gap in the context of our exhibition. The first was to acknowledge it, thereby making the absence noticed. In addition to acknowledging the gap, one student pointed out that while none of the manuscripts, books, or objects were produced by Muslims nor do they contain an Islamic text, some of the objects were produced in Muslim Jerusalem (for example, the stereoscope photographs, taken at the turn of the twentieth century in Ottoman Jerusalem) or created outside of Jerusalem at a time when the city was under Islamic rule (such as William of Adam’s indulgence, composed when Jerusalem was in Mamluk hands). Some of them even depict Muslim Jerusalem (most strikingly, the Casale Pilgrimage, which includes drawing of late sixteenth century Jerusalem), or discuss Jerusalem’s Muslim residents (as Weitzman’s text does). Thirdly, we incorporated more recent children’s literature that, though not rare, makes an effort to be deliberately pluralistic in its presentation of the city and its history. Highlighting these historical contexts and expanding what the collection includes are some of the ways in which we’ve attempted to include Jewish, Christian, and Muslim dimensions of Jerusalem in this exhibition, despite the limitations we faced.
“Next Year in Jerusalem”: Looking Ahead
The very last sources I shared with my students during our final moments of our final class meeting were a number of Passover Haggadot, in which the phrase “Next Year in Jerusalem” appears. I explained that when Jews say this phrase, they mean it in at least two ways. First, they mean it literally, that they hope that by next year redemption will have arrived and that they’ll be living in a restored Jerusalem. But they also recite it figuratively, as a generalized hope for the future – a hope that next year will be better, that they won’t be in the midst of a pandemic, that they’ll be somewhere else, in a way that they’ll figuratively be in Jerusalem. I thought it was fitting to end our class in this way, with this doubled hope, that one day – in the not too distant future – each student be able to visit Jerusalem, the city about which we had just spent a full semester learning, and also that each of them will find their way to their own Jerusalem, wherever that might be, once it’s safe for each person to emerge from their homes. And as I tell each group of students I teach, I hope that they will stay in touch – that they will send back their pilgrimage narratives and reflections from their journeys, wherever those take them.
The exhibition catalogue, “Jerusalem in the Stacks,” can be downloaded here.
As for those of us still on campus, there will also be several more upcoming exhibitions and catalogues highlighting the expected and unexpected places where Jerusalem appears in the Fordham Library. There are new boxes of old books to explore, still uncatalogued, waiting for us in the back rooms of the library, as well as many other pages to peruse in the stacks. Stay tuned!
Jerusalem Exhibition Details
A companion in-person exhibition, also titled “Jerusalem in the Stacks,” features some of the pieces that Sarit’s students researched for the catalogue as well as many additional pieces from the Fordham collection. It is currently on display at the Special Collections in Walsh Library on Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus through the end of 2021. The in-person exhibition was curated by Sarit Kattan Gribetz and Magda Teter, with the generous assistance of Vivian Shen of the O’Hare Special Collections.
Sarit Kattan Gribetz is Associate Professor of Classical Judaism in the Theology Department at Fordham University, and served as Acting Director of Fordham’s Center for Jewish Studies in 2020-2021. Her first book, Time and Difference in Rabbinic Judaism (Princeton University Press), received a National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship. She is currently writing her next book, Jerusalem: A Feminist History.