Abraham’s Multilingual Sons and Daughters

The Many Faces of Isaac and Ismael, Part 3

Everyday, hundreds of video clips get produced at our video box that is part of the exhibition “Obedience. An Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke & Peter Greenaway.” This month, we have been particularly taken by the multitude of languages spoken by our visitors who present themselves as Isaac or Ismael:

Lisa Albrecht, responsible for compiling the clips, is since able to introduce herself in a number of languages.

Coal-black language

Girl in an red coat with roses on her hands

Book cover of the German edition of “Blumen für den Führer” © Verlag cbj

Innumerable publications have appeared on the market about the Nazi period in Germany, as well as a steady stream of new novels, non-fiction, and books for children or young adults that deal with this subject. Among them you will find Jürgen Seidel’s “Flowers for the Führer,” the first part of a trilogy that is, according to the reviews, “a very complex, moving, and exciting novel for young adults about a tragic love story during the era of National Socialism,” and is also “worth reading for adults.” Some of us read the trilogy as part of a reading group dedicated to keeping abreast of children’s and young adult literature about Nazism. And we quickly discovered that instead of discussing the depiction of the Nazi regime and German history, we needed to talk about something else: racism.
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“Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic, and sometimes Latin:”

in Conversation with Emile Schrijver, Curator of the Braginsky Collection

What made you decide to be curator of a manuscript collection?

When I studied Hebrew in Amsterdam, a lecturer took us to see the University of Leiden’s collection of medieval manuscripts. In the impressive vaults, I saw ancient manuscripts for the first time: the only manuscript of the Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi), for instance, and one of the earliest Rashi manuscripts. Seeing these ancient sources, and gaining first-hand experience of living history, was overwhelming. Historical books had a strong effect on me. I subsequently studied at the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, the Jewish library at the University of Amsterdam, where I later began to work. A few years ago, Mr. Braginsky was looking for a curator for his first exhibition in Europe. Mutual acquaintances from the international circle of manuscript specialists put us in touch with one another. We got along well and were soon able to establish a good, trusting working relationship

What 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 take care of the collection. I am responsible for Mr. Braginsky’s new acquisitions and for his existing objects. Most new acquisitions are delivered with a short description. Others we describe and photograph, before adding them to our inventory. I carefully examine the books’ condition and, if necessary, commission their restoration. I’m also responsible for monitoring the climate in the storerooms. Inquiries concerning exhibitions and reproductions are 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, on behalf of the European Association of Jewish Museums, for example. Public relations for events such as the Jewish Book Week in London in 2013 likewise require a great deal of preparation.

What makes the Braginsky Collection so special?  continue reading