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The Library of Lost Books in Britain

Books from the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in London


Here you can have a closer look at some of the traces of the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies that have been found at the Leo Baeck College Library in London. 

They include an ornate album with photographs of all lecturers working at the Institute in 1904, a Haggadah from 1730, the Luzzatto Manuscript (1815–1820?), and a book about German-Jewish gymnasts from Wilhelmine Germany.




The Maybaum Album

This ornate photograph album was dedicated to Rabbi Prof Dr Siegmund Maybaum, a lecturer at the Higher Institute, by the faculty and students of the Lehranstalt für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin (The Higher Institute for Jewish Studies). This unique testimony to the community at the Institute and to the spirit of togetherness was donated to the Leo Baeck College by Siegmund Maybaum’s nephew.

On the cover it has a metal haut-relief with a female figure holding a laurel wreath aloft in her right hand and in her left hand a scroll with the inscription: Ihrem hochverehrten Lehrer, Herrn Rabb. Prf. Dr. Maybaum, in Dankbarkeit gewidmet von seinen ehemaligen und jetzigen Schülern (Dedicated to their highly revered teacher, Prof Dr Maybaum with gratitude from his former and current students). Berlin, d. 29. IV. 1904. 

Maybe you can spot some of the scholars and students featured in the Maybaum Album in our exhibition at the Wiener Holocaust Library?



The Herlingen Haggadah (Seder Haggadah shel Pesah)

Herlingen Haggadah (Seder Haggadah shel Pesah) written and illustrated by Aharon ben Binyamin Zev called Aharon Schreiber of Gewitsch (Aaron Wolf Herlingen), Pressburg (Bratislava) 5490 (1729–1730).

This much used, beautifully illustrated book embodies a link to one of the most dramatic and complex rescue missions of books from the Higher Institute’s library. It was part of the books that Alexander Guttmann smuggled out of Germany in 1940 to the USA. This item is now on permanent loan to the Leo Baeck College from the Judaica Conservancy Foundation.




What is a Haggadah?

A Haggadah is used as a guide through the ritual-rich Seder meal on Passover, celebrated in early spring. On this religious holiday, it is a mitzvah (commandment) to each Jew to retell the story of Exodus to the next generation, commemorating the end of enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt. The Haggadah explains when and how each rite is performed.

The Seder meal includes four cups of wine, unleavened bread (matza) and foods symbolising the Exodus:

Karpas (a herb standing for the flourishing of the Jews during the initial period in Egypt; it is dipped in salt water in the course of the meal pointing to both tears shed over the condition of slavery and the hope of new birth)

Haroset (sweet fruit and honey – reminder of the mortar used by the Isreaelites to build the pyramids for the pharaohs)

Maror (bitter herb symbolising the bitterness of slavery)

Hazeret (second bitter herb – used in korech, a sandwich including matza bread and bitter herbs)

Zeroa (shank bone – stands for the sacrificial lamb offered when the temple still stood in Jerusalem) 

Beitza (egg – symbolising all holiday offerings when the temple still stood in Jerusalem).




The Luzzatto Manuscript

Samuel David Luzzatto’s Synonymia Hebraica (Mavdil Nirdafim), (c. 1815–1820?) is another item that smuggled out of Germany by Alexander Guttmann in 1940.

This manuscript is in a beautifully bound notebook containing 25 essays written in Hebrew, each dealing with a small group of Hebrew words in the Bible that have similar or identical meanings. All but one were subsequently published in the journals Bikkurei Ha-Ittim (1825–1828) and Jeschurun (1856). This unique item is particularly interesting as it contains the author’s corrections and emendations in the text and on the margins, as well as publication notes in ink, crayon and pencil. It is thus a fascinating testimony to the editing process. This item is on permanent loan to Leo Baeck College Library from the Judaica Conservancy Foundation.



German-Jewish Gymnasts – 10th Anniversary of the Bar-Kochba Gymnasts Club

Verlag der Jüdischen Turnzeitung, Körperliche Renaissance der Juden. Festschrift anlässlich des IV. Turntages der Jüdischen Turnerschaft und der Feier des 10 jährigen Bestehens des Jüdischen Turnvereins Bar-Kochba (Physical Renaissance of the Jews: Publication to commemorate the IV Sports Day of the Jewish Gymnasts and the Celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Jewish Gymnasts’ Club Bar-Kochba) – Berlin, 1909.  

We have included this illustrated publication by the German-Jewish gymnasts’ association here as a symbol of the diversity of topics discussed within the Higher Institute’s community. The emergence of a German-Jewish gymnasts’ movement and clubs like Bar Kochba was, on the one hand, a reaction to the exclusion of Jews from German clubs; on the other hand, it was also a movement to create a German-Jewish community in its own right. Obtaining physical fitness also entailed a political statement addressing antisemitic prejudice that often dwelled on ideas about the alleged weakness or ‘inferiority’ of the ‘Jewish body’ in Wilhelmine Germany. The publication is particularly interesting in the British context as it contains a text about and photographs of Jewish gymnasts in England and America.





We would like to thank the Leo Baeck College for granting us permission to create scans of the above-listed items to display them here as part of the Library of Lost Books project. As ever, our gratitude lies particularly with the Leo Baeck College’s senior librarian, Cassy Sachar, who has lent us both her expertise and unfaltering support.