“Dispatch Prohibited on Account of the State of War”

A Letter from the Archive Tells of the Outbreak of War in 1914

A handwritten letter

Letter from Leo Roos to his family (first page), Frankfurt am Main, 31 July1914
Donated by Walter Roos
© Jewish Museum Berlin

“The situation is extremely serious; His Majesty the Emperor declared this afternoon that Germany is now at war.” Exactly one hundred years ago today, eighteen-year-old Leo Roos penned these lines to his parents and siblings back home in the West Palatine village of Brücken. But they were never to receive his letter, as the note on the envelope attests: Dispatch prohibited on account of the state of war. Return to sender.

Roos felt he was witnessing fateful times. He lived in Frankfurt, where he was apprenticed to a bank. He thought himself a city boy, much closer to momentous global events than his family was, off in its isolated village. He described the tense mood:  continue reading


Friendship You Can Touch

30 July 2014 is International Friendship Day. But how do we commemorate friendship? Or how do we make it visible? We consulted with communications designer Lina Khesina to find out. She devised a pair of ‘friendship buttons’ that you can get at the moment from the art vending machine in our permanent exhibition. One of them features the word “Tsemed” in Hebrew script, and the other one the word “Chemed.”

The buttons are presented  on the palm of one's hand

The buttons “Tsemed” and “Chemed”.
Photo courtesy of the artist

Lisa Albrecht: Lina, why did you develop this item in particular for the art vending machine?
I had the idea of showing the beauty of the Hebrew language and transmitting it in an everyday way. I don’t actually speak Hebrew myself, but purely from a musical perspective I find it and Spanish the two most beautiful languages. So I really wanted to discover Hebrew for myself and find a constellation of words in the language that I could play with. That’s how these buttons with the wordplay emerged.

How did the wordplay occur to you?
In Russian, best friends are often called “nje rasléj wodá”, which more or less means “even water cannot destroy this bond.” I did some research on whether there’s such an idiom in Hebrew as well and thus learned about “Tsemed Chemed.” Translated literally, it means “sweet entanglement”, and is an expression for ‘close friends.’

What do these two words have to do with the buttons?
Buttons get sewed on with a thread and become then ‘entangled,’ or interwoven, with the material. Close friends experience something similar, even when they live thousands of kilometers apart. Like the buttons, they’re connected to each other by the thread and the adage.  continue reading


“Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic, and sometimes Latin:”

in Conversation with Emile Schrijver, Curator of the Braginsky Collection

How does one become a curator of a manuscript collection?

When I was a student—I studied Hebrew in Amsterdam—a lecturer took us to see the University of Leiden’s collection of medieval manuscripts. In the impressive vaults there, I had my first ever opportunity to see really ancient manuscripts: the only manuscript of the Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud), for instance, and one of the earliest Rashi manuscripts. To see these ancient sources, to have first-hand experience of this living history was overwhelming—historical books in general had this effect on me at the time . I subsequently studied a great deal at the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, the Jewish library at the University of Amsterdam and later even began working there. Then, a few years ago, Mr. Braginsky was looking for a curator for his first exhibition in Europe. Mutual acquaintances from the international world of manuscripts put us in touch with each other and, as it happened, we got along very well and were soon able to establish a good working relationship based on trust.

What exactly do you do as a curator of the Braginsky Collection?

A man sits at a table and holding an open book in his hands

Emile Schrijver and the Harrison Miscellany © and photo: Darko Todorovic, Dornbirn (A)

I am responsible for the collection: for new acquisitions, whenever Mr. Braginsky buys something, as well as for existing stocks. Most new acquisitions are delivered with a short description. Others we describe and photograph ourselves, then add them to our inventory. I carefully examine the condition books are in and commission their restoration, if necessary. I’m also responsible for monitoring the climate in the storerooms. Inquiries concerning exhibitions and reproductions involve a lot of work for us. The process of digitizing our stock is ongoing. Occasionally, scholars wish to view specific works at length. We also organize presentations on our own premises, for example, on behalf of the European Association of Jewish Museums. Public relations for events such as the Jewish Book Week in London in 2013 likewise require a great deal of preparation.

What do you think makes the Braginsky Collection so special?  continue reading