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This is a scholarly article on this manuscript and its scribe, Meir Jaffe, who lived in Heidelberg, Germany, in the fifteenth century. The article is currently being converted into an electronic format and will be available for downloading later this summer.
Below you will find an excerpt from the article.
The persecutions of the Jews by the Germans have not only inflicted immeasurable damage upon the Jewish people of Middle and Eastern Europe; they have also destroyed such sacred monuments of their past as cult objects and synagogues. Even the Jewish museums, founded during recent decades for the preservation of old treasures of art and history have been demolished or despoiled, not alone in Germany but also in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. In view of this devastation, it cheers one to know that, far removed from war torn Europe, an interest in Jewish museums long ago took root in America. Examples are the collections of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. While the New York museum, with the collection of Hadji Ephraim Benguiat, scion of an old Sephardic family, as its nucleus, is basically Sephardic in character, the Hebrew Union College collection rests on the acquisitions of a German collector, Salli Kirchenstein and upon the donations of American patrons, mostly of German origin. The special value of the Cincinnati collection lies, therefore, in its wealth of art objects that are Ashkenazic. How significant now that Ashkenazic culture in Europe is on the wane!
In 1924, the librarian of the Hebrew Union College, Dr. Adolph S. Oko, while assembling his collection, acquired a Haggadah of medieval Germany, so much more arresting than all of the others, that we shall call it specifically "The Cincinnati Haggadah." This Haggadah has already won the attention of experts. In 1927, when a group of scholars collaborated in publishing that fascinating German Haggadah manuscript, the so-called Darmstadt Haggadah,[i] the Haggadah which we are now treating was among the many matters which they had to consider. Bruno Italiener surveyed its contents and ritual, while the pictorial adornments are explained in a few sketchy pages by August L. Mayer. However, the conclusions reached seemed to me inadequate. I had my doubts when I knew of the manuscript only what I could gather from the illustrations in the Italiener and Mayer volume. Later, when it was my privilege to be called to the Hebrew Union College - thanks to the generosity and hospitality of that noted institution of Jewish learning - I had the opportunity of locating our Haggadah among the treasures of the museum and of giving it careful study. Italiener's dating and, above all, Mayer's hypotheses proved so untenable that I undertook to work out other and more valid conclusions. A happy biproduct of my study was the discovery that the illuminator had been active not only in the decorating of manuscripts but likewise in another artistic field. Furthermore, the date and the origin also of the Darmstadt Haggadah were cleared up as a result of the facts brought to light.
[i] Die Darmstaedter Pessach-Haggadah, herausgegeben und erlaeutert von Bruno Italiener, unter Mitwirkung von Aron Freimann, August L. Mayer und Adolf Schmidt, Leipzig, 1927.