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Rare Illuminated Hebrew Manuscript On First-Time Display Following Extensive Conservation
The Nuremberg Mahzor,Rhineland, Germany, 1331. Extended loan from the collection of Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn, Zurich.

JERUSALEM.- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, today announced the special presentation of the Nuremberg Mahzor, one of the most complete illuminated Hebrew prayer books and among the largest surviving medieval codices in the world, following extensive restoration in the Museum’s paper conservation laboratories. Reflecting the highest achievements of Hebrew manuscript production during medieval times, the Mahzor includes finely handwritten liturgical poems and prayers for the entire Jewish year and life cycle, embellished with lavish illuminated panels of gold and silver leaf and precious pigments. Dating from 1331, the Mahzor will be on display in the Museum’s Shrine of the Book as the centerpiece of a focus exhibition on view from September 15, 2009 through February 2010.

The Nuremberg Mahzor: A Medieval Masterpiece Unveiled provides visitors with a first-time opportunity to view this newly conserved manuscript, complete with four previously missing leaves that are thought to have been removed during the Napoleonic Wars. Formerly in the collection of the Library at the Schocken Institute for Jewish Research in Jerusalem, the manuscript and the missing leaves were recently acquired by Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn, Zurich, and given to the Israel Museum on extended loan.

“This presentation of the Nuremberg Mahzor enhances and extends the timeline of Hebrew manuscripts on display in the Shrine of the Book, underscoring the dramatic evolution from the Dead Sea Scrolls in Second Temple times, to the Aleppo Codex in the 10th century, and continuing to the flourishing of the world’s Jewish communities throughout the Middle Ages,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. “This exhibition also continues an important program of installations in the Shrine showcasing singular treasures of Jewish heritage drawn from our holdings and accentuating the Museum’s rich legacy of Jewish cultural history.”

In addition to containing the yearly cycle of Ashkenazic prayers, the Nuremberg Mahzor features an unparalleled collection of liturgical poems and commentaries that represent the majority of the manuscript’s content. Originally commissioned for private study and synagogue use by a Jewish patron named Joshua, Son of Isaac, the Mahzor was completed in Germany on August 8, 1331. The book likely served the larger Jewish community of Nuremberg thereafter, remaining in the city after the expulsion of the Jews in 1499.

The Mahzor was preserved intact in the Nuremberg city library until the early-19th century when eleven of its 528 leaves were excised, presumably by the Napoleonic army. Of the missing leaves, five resurfaced 100 years later in Frankfurt, in the collection of Mayer Selig Goldschmidt. Four of these were acquired in the 1930s by Salman Schocken, a German-Jewish businessman, publisher, and book collector, who in 1951 acquired the entire manuscript as part of a post-war restitution for property lost during World War II. For over fifty years, the Nuremberg Mahzor remained in the Schocken Institute in Jerusalem and was not accessible for public display. Today the manuscript contains 521 of its original 528 leaves (1042 pages).

The Nuremberg Mahzor: A Medieval Masterpiece Unveiled is curated by Anna Nizza, Assistant Curator of Judaica at the Israel Museum, and also features a selection of artifacts of German Judaica and related German Jewish ethnography.

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