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Amsterdam-Jerusalem

Amsterdam, July 1768
 
The newlyweds -- Dutch Governor, Wilhelm V, and the Prussian Princess Wilhelmina -- are invited to visit the Ashkenazi congregation in Amsterdam. Congregation leaders are hopeful this gesture will secure good ties with the Governor’s court and permit comfortable conditions for the Jews of the city and the Dutch Republic in general. Following long negotiations, the Governor agrees to visit the main synagogue.

The visit and the preparations leading up to it are documented in a series of texts detailed in the Pinkas Hakehilot of Amsterdam, and preserved in Amsterdam’s civic archives. According to one of the texts, three different versions detailing the order in which the prayers and psalms were said were printed for the visit: two copies for the Royal Couple, on satin fabric, with the prayers and psalms written in Hebrew and Dutch; 50 copies with the same text for the party accompanying the Royal Couple, printed on paper and bound with red satin fabric; 500 copies in Hebrew only for the members of the local congregation. Light and Happiness for the Jews was the name given the text. The congregation leader bequeathed the two most valuable copies to the Governor and his wife.

The visit ended successfully.

​Jerusalem, Winter 2011

 

Dr. Stefan Litt, an historian and archivist at the National Library, researches the Pinkas Hakehilot of Ashkenazi communities. Interested in more than just the historical text documenting the visit of the Princes, Dr. Litt tries to determine if any copies of those precious booklets still remain. A quick check with the Library’s computerized catalog reveals two copies of the booklet in storage and the National Library. Looking over this first copy, it becomes apparent that it is indeed one of the 50 booklets printed for the party accompanying the Princes on their visit: bound in red satin, a bit faded, and text in two languages – Hebrew and Dutch – just as was described in the Pinkas Hakehilot of Amsterdam.

 

Apart from this copy, whose origin is in the personal library of the German-Dutch researcher and Rabbi, Sigmund Zeligman, we know of only one other copy of this version, to be found at the British Library in London. But what about the other copy in Jerusalem? Apparently, wonders never cease: in storage at the National Library is one of the two copies printed on satin fabric for the Royal Couple!

 

Stamps on this precious booklet prove that it reached the Library’s collections along with many other books donated by Dr. Joseph Hazinovitch over 100 years ago. How did the book end up in the hands of this important collector? We may never know.

 

What is obvious, though, is that the Dutch Governor and his wife did not fully appreciate this bibliophilic gift: apparently the second copy went missing, and no recollection of the visit, in the form of these beautiful booklets printed at the famous Jewish publishing house, Propes in Amsterdam, is to be found at any of the large libraries in Holland.

 

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