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March 3, 2014 12:01 am

Ancient Jewish Text Added to UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ Register

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

UNESCO's logo.

A rare Hebrew, 15th century manuscript from the Israel Museum’s collection was included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register for 2013, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Thursday.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization described the Rothschild Miscellany as a “unique, lavishly illuminated compendium-manuscript adorned with magnificent miniatures in gold and silver leafs and precious pigments.”

“The illustrations offer a rare window into the religious customs, daily lives and fashion of Italian Renaissance Jewry,” the description adds. “It represents the creative pinnacle of Hebrew manuscript painting in the 15th century and is an unparalleled example of Jewish heritage from a period in which very few Jewish objects of material culture remain.”

During World War II, the whereabouts of the Miscellany became a mystery. Only years later did the manuscript resurface when it was put up for sale in New York. Its final private owner, philanthropist James A. de  Rothschild, donated it to the Israel Museum shortly after the Jewish state was established, Ma’ariv said.

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“It is a great honor for us that our Rothschild Miscellany has been included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register,” said Israel Museum Director James Snyder. “It is perhaps the finest Hebrew illuminated manuscript from the 15th century and one of our collection’s rarest treasures.”

Established in 1995, the Memory of the World Register lists documentary heritage of world significance and outstanding universal value. The Register currently includes about 300 items and selected collections, according to Ma’ariv.

This is the first time that two Israeli institutions (along with Yad Vashem’s Testimony Collection) will be included on the prestigious list. The deputy chairman of UNESCO will preside over an official announcement ceremony, to be held this week in Jerusalem.

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