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14th Century Haggadah Set for Display in Israel

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In what is perhaps an embodiment of the Jewish people’s story of persecution and survival, an original copy of the Wolf Haggadah – a distinctively illustrated Sephardic Haggadah written in the late 14th century that subsequently made its way through a number of countries – will go on display in a computerized version at the National Library of Israel.

Written by French physician and scholar Yakov Ben Shlomo, who lived in the Provence region of France, the Wolf Haggadah is 36 parchment pages long. “Writing the Haggadah was part of the cultural movement whose goal was to resist the philosophical beliefs thriving in Provence,” said Dr. Aviad Stolman, senior curator of Judaism in the National Library.

The Wolf Haggadah includes a description of the Pesach laws and particular practices observed at that time in France. In 1889, Albert Wolf, a German Jewish Judaica collector, acquired the Haggadah at a public auction in Germany, following which it became known as the Wolf Haggadah. In 1907, Wolf donated the Haggadah to the Jewish community of Berlin. The timeless piece of Jewish literature temporarily fell out of Jewish hands in 1938, when it was confiscated by the Nazis and moved to Poland. Following its recovery by Soviet forces, the Wolf Haggadah was sent to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw in 1948. It disappeared in 1984, but then reappeared at a public auction in 1989 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The World Jewish Congress subsequently lodged a lawsuit against the auctioneers, thus causing the Haggadah to be returned to the Polish Embassy in Switzerland. The Wolf Haggadah’s arduous journey finally came to a triumphant end when it was presented to the National Library in Jerusalem fifteen years ago.

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