New collection of haggadahs

Haggadah – from Livorno, Italy dating back to 1847.

AS Jews across the world gather around seder tables to read from the haggadah later this week, the Jewish Museum of Australia (JMA) also celebrates a link to the traditional liturgical text which spans thousands of years. The JMA has recently announced the acquisition of 35 rare and unique haggadahs.

The collection features hand-illustrated manuscripts from Amsterdam dating back to the year 1781, and pieces originating from Spain, Italy, Iraq and India, through to 19th century Morocco and Yemen, and 20th century USA and Israel.

“In historical terms, the illustrations within this collection of haggadot tell us a lot about the communities, their culture, their values, and about how assimilated or not assimilated they were in the wider community around them,” said JMA director and CEO Rebecca Forgasz.

“There’s a whole lot of important and different stories told by this collection, which is why we are really thrilled to have them,” she added.

The collection was originally owned by Dr Harry Buckstein, who had amassed a diverse and beautiful array of haggadahs.

“He wasn’t a religious man… but he just loved the haggadah. He brought the love of Pesach with him from his childhood, and he’s delighted to know that the haggadot have found their way to the Museum,” said Charles Leski, the auctioneer and former director of Mossgreen who managed the sale.

The artefacts were purchased with the assistance of the Copland Foundation, who generously granted $20,000 to the JMA. An additional $10,000 was raised between several major donors.

The JMA is offering a behind-the-scenes viewing of the haggadahs on Thursday, April 12. The event is free with museum admission, but bookings are essential at https://bit.ly/2DTwpQX

REBECCA DAVIS