Professor Ankori authored Karaites in Byzantium: The Formative Years, 970-1100, considered by many to be his magnum opus. The work is on the recommended reading list for the Karaite Jewish University.
In the introduction to the bibliography of Karaites in Byzantium, Professor Ankori wrote, “A comprehensive, classified, up-to-date bibliography of Karaitica is an urgent desideratum.” It was this sentence that, in part, inspired Professor Barry Dov Walfish to compile his recently-published Bibliographia Karaitica: An Annotated Bibliography of Karaites and Karaism.
Professor Ankori’s passing reminds me that one of my goals for this blog is to interview researchers and scholars in the field of Karaite Judaism. Perhaps we’ll do a handful of such interviews in the coming year.
Karaites and academics are indebted to Professor Ankori for his many contributions. I recently received the following necrology for Professor Ankori.
Zvi Ankori died on November 12, 2012. Born in Tarnow, Poland, he immigrated to British Mandate Palestine as a teenager, spending a formative period in Kibbutz Hanita before settling in Jerusalem. During WWII he volunteered to serve in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army. As a soldier, he crossed the North African desert and was later posted in liberated Europe. Returning to Poland in 1945, he was one of the first allied soldiers to witness the devastation of European Jewry. In his hometown he also found out
about the murder of his parents and younger sister. He saved his surviving sister from a Siberian labor camp, established a school for Jewish orphans in Ferramonti, Italy, and worked to bring Holocaust survivors to Israel. Marching under the Arch of Titus in Rome in this context, he later recalled, was a symbolic affirmation of his desire to settle in a sovereign Jewish state. In the 1950s, he went to study with Salo Baron at Columbia University, where he finished and published his dissertation on the Karaites in Byzantium, still a
prerequisite for medieval Balkan Jewish history as are his numerous publications on Greek and Cretan Jewry and Medieval Jewish History. His extensive interview with Salo Baron is now on tape at Columbia. His academic career began at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, followed by a distinguished chair at Ohio State University. Upon the retirement of Prof. Baron in 1970, Ankori was appointed Director of the Center for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University, a post he held until his return to Israel in the
mid-1970s. Back in Israel he was the first director of the Ben Gurion Archives and Research Institute in Sde Boker and ultimately held an endowed chair for the History and Culture of the Jewry of Salonica and Greece at Tel Aviv University.
His first and last love was literature as he recalled in his monumental autobiographical novels, Chestnuts of Yesteryear (2003) and As a Palm Tree in the Desert (2008). A master raconteur for his family and guests whom he and Ora, his wife of some six decades, entertained in their various foreign and Jerusalem homes, first in Talpioth, where he regularly walked and regaled his friend Shai Agnon, the Nobel Prize laureate, and later in Yemin Moshe, he now rests in Kibbutz Hanita, his youthful home in Israel.