Saving rare Jewish manuscripts is all the rage these days, with the Jewish community’s attention rightly focused on the fate of the Iraqi Jewish Archive. The United States spent $3 million restoring the thousands of books and documents from the Jewish community in Iraq. Today, no Jewish community to speak of exists in Iraq; but Jews had resided there since Biblical times. (And there was a Karaite community in Iraq from the 10th century until at least 1951. [1.])
The Iraqi Jewish Archive was found in the basement of a flood-damaged Saddam Hussein intelligence building and the United States is planning to send this invaluable archive back to Iraq, much to the chagrin of Jews throughout the world.
But a lesser known Jewish archive also has experienced water and moisture damage and desperately needs your support. It is the Karaite Jewish Archive in Ramle, Israel, the headquarters of Universal Karaite Judaism.
I spoke to a representative of the UKJ, who told me that the archives contain numerous, one of a kind, handwritten documents. I’ve seen an abridged copy of the archive’s catalog. The manuscripts include, by way of example, (i) a handwritten Megillat Esther with considerable damage throughout; (ii) a handwritten book (potentially a copy) of a work of the 18th Century Karaite Simchah Isaac Lutski; and (iii) records of the Karaite Bet Din of Egypt from 1901-1904 and 1920-1972, some of which have moisture and humidity damage.
According to a letter the Karaite Jews of America received from the UKJ, the manuscripts were damaged by flooding and subsequently experienced damage from fungus and spores. The State of Israel has contributed 100,000 NIS (about $30,000) to the project and the UKJ has contributed an additional 114,000 NIS to preserve these rare manuscripts. The first phase of the restoration project is nearing completion, with the UKJ completing the obligations it made to the Israeli government when applying for the grant of 100,000 NIS.
But the Israeli Karaite community needs to raise a lot more money to preserve its rare manuscripts and purchase appropriate equipment with which to maintain and store these documents.
If you would like to donate money to help save the Karaite Jewish Archive, you may do so through the Karaite Jews of America’s GENERAL / TEMPLE FUND. At the end of the 2013, the Karaite Jews of America will send a check to the UKJ of all funds received for the archive. To make your donation, click here; just add the following note in the “special instructions to seller” link: “Karaite Manuscripts Project.”
Here is a copy of the letter the actual Karaite Jews of America received from the community in Israel. Please excuse any typos and items which were lost in translation, as the letter was not written by a native English speaker.
* * *
1. Goldshmidt, Fried, Steinberg, and Cohen; The Karaite Community of Iraq in Israel: A Genetic Study; Am J Hum Genet 28:243-252, 1976, p. 243.