Processing Update: Artifacts

In addition to the many paper-based materials in the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection, we have also processed a series of three-dimensional objects. This series of artifacts is comprised of medals and coins, textiles, and commemorative plates. The subjects covered in this series mirror those found throughout the collection, including Antisemitism and persecution, Jewish holidays, Jewish institutions, prominent Jewish figures, the State of Israel, and synagogues.

Benjamin Disraeli commemorative plate

The collection contains three decorative plates, one featuring Benjamin Disraeli and two featuring Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina. The plate featuring Benjamin Disraeli includes his seated portrait framed by a floral border of primroses, Disraeli’s favorite flower, and his earl’s coronet over the portrait, with an excerpt from Alfred Tennyson’s poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.” at the bottom. This English creamware plate was produced circa 1886 by the Wallis Gimson & Company’s Lane Delph Pottery in Staffordshire. The plate probably commemorates Disraeli’s elevation to the House of Lords in 1876, when Queen Victoria made him the Earl of Beaconsfield.

KKBE bicentennial plateThe second plate, pictured at right, commemorates Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim’s bicentennial in 1950 and features an illustration of the synagogue, with a short printed passage on the history of the Jewish community in Charleston and the synagogue on the back. An additional decorative plate held in the collection features a photographic image of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, with a typed note providing a short history of the synagogue taped to the back.

matzah coverThe Rosenthall Collection also includes a small number of textiles, especially those used during the celebration of Passover, such as afikomen bags and matzo covers. This matzo cover includes the Hebrew blessing over matzo, which translates as : “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to eat matzo.” Both the blessing and the vibrant flowers on the matzo cover are embroidered; lace encircles the cover. The Hebrew date 5669 at the bottom corresponds to the year 1909.


MizrahAdditional textiles in the collection include a textile featuring an image of Bnei Brak, Israel, a wall tapestry including a border of the Hebrew text of Exodus 23:25-26, and this Mizrah, which would be hung on the eastern wall in Jewish homes or synagogues to indicate the direction to face in prayer.

The most substantial portion of this series is Rabbi Rosenthall’s collection of medals and coins, which has particular strengths in the subjects of prominent Jewish figures, Jewish institutions, and synagogues. The medals of prominent Jewish figures feature artists and authors, bankers and businessmen, military leaders, philanthropists, philosophers, politicians, rabbis, and Zionists, among others. Many of these medals honor the births of these important figures, such as the medals pictured below celebrating the 75th birthday of author Mendele Mocher Sforim and 70th birthday of composer Karl Goldmark.

Mendele Mocher Sforim medal Carl Goldmark medal frontCarl Goldmark medal reverse

Other medals in this group display not only prominent Jewish individuals, but the organization or institution with which they were most associated. The first medal displayed below commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Alliance israélite universelle in 1910. Narcisse Leven, whose bust is shown on the front of the medal, served as general secretary of the organization from 1863 to 1883, its vice-president from 1883 to 1898, and its president beginning in 1898.

Narcisse Leven medal front Narcisse Leven medal reverse

The next medal commemorates the life of Adolph Jellinek (1820-1893), Chief Rabbi of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (Jewish community of Vienna). The Hebrew text on the back is excerpted from Zechariah 4:6 : “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Adolph Jellinek medal front Adolph Jellinek medal reverse

The final medal in this group dates from 1913 and honors philosopher Henri Bergson, member of the Institut de France and professor at the Collège de France. The Latin inscription on the back reads : “movet vita intellectum.”

Henri Bergson medal front

Henri Bergson medal backSome medals, such as the medal below featuring actor Adolf von Sonnenthal, commemorate important milestones within the individuals’ lives. This 1881 medal was struck in celebration of Sonnenthal’s 25th anniversary with the K.K. Hofburgtheater (today called the Burgtheater) in Vienna. Sonnenthal made his acting debut at the theater in 1856. In 1870 Sonnenthal was appointed assistant manager, and in 1884 chief manager, of the Hofburgtheater; and from 1887 to 1888 he acted as its director. His 25th anniversary at this theater was celebrated by all Vienna, and the emperor conferred an order of nobility upon him. The back of the medal shows the exterior of the theater.

Adolf von Sonnenthal medal frontAdolf von Sonnenthal medal back

The medals in the Rosenthall Collection also depict a wide range of Jewish institutions, such as charitable societies, homes for the aged, hospitals, orphanages, and schools located in Israel, South America, Western Europe, and the United States. The first medal from this category pictured below commemorates the 1928 dedication of new facilities for the Newark Beth Israel Hospital. The front features the exterior of the new buildings, with a Star of David above and Rod of Asclepius below; the reverse depicts a male figure sipping from a bowl of water held by a female figure, with Hebrew text excerpted form Exodus 15:25 : “For I am the Lord that heals you.”

Newark Beth Israel Hospital medal reverse Newark Beth Israel Hospital medal front

The second medal commemorates the 1865 dedication of a new building for the Jewish Boys’ Orphanage Megadle Yetomim in Amsterdam. Megadle Yetomim, meaning those who care for orphans, was originally founded in 1738 by Amsterdam’s Ashkenazi community. The first home opened in 1836; in 1865, the new orphanage opened on the Amstel and the corner of Zwanenburgerstraat. The front of the medal depicts a relief of the building’s exterior; the reverse depicts a relief of a woman holding two children, with a shield bearing a Star of David and the Hebrew inscription “Megadle Yetomim.”

Jewish Orphanage Amsterdam medal front Jewish Orphanage Amsterdam medal reverse

The final medal pictured in this group commemorates the 70th anniversary of the founding of Hebrew Union College (1875-1945). The front depict’s the buildings façade, while the back pictures a bust of the institution’s founder, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise.

Hebrew Union College medal frontHebrew Union College medal reverse

As is the case throughout the collection, the medals subseries is also very strong in items displaying synagogues from Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. The first medal pictured below commemorates the 100th anniversary of the founding of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in 1825, the second synagogue in New York City, and the oldest in continuous operation. The front of the medal depicts the exterior of the congregation’s current building, which was dedicated in 1917; the reverse depicts the congregation’s first synagogue building on Elm Street in Manhattan.

Bnai Jeshurun medal frontBnai Jeshurun medal reverse

The three following medals commemorate the inaugurations of synagogues in Germany and Italy. The first medal displayed commemorates the 1887 dedication of the Hauptsynagoge (Main Synagogue) in Munich. The Rosenthall Collection also contains a 1972 rendition of this medal that displays the same front as the original 1887 medal, but with a reverse displaying a stylized depiction of the Main Synagogue’s remains after its destruction during Kristallnacht (1938).

Munchen 1887 frontMunchen 1887 reverse

The next medal commemorates the 1861 inauguration of the Glockengasse Synagogue in Cologne. The medal’s front displays a relief of the synagogue’s exterior. The back displays a relief of the interior, as well as Hebrew text reading : “And Abraham Oppenheim built the synagogue for the congregation of Cologne, and they inaugurated it on 23 Elul 5621.”

Glockengasse Synagogue medal frontGlockengasse Synagogue medal reverse

The last medal in this set commemorates the 1878 inauguration of the Tempio Israelitico (synagogue) in Vercelli. The front of the medal depicts the synagogue’s façade, with the back containing the dedication.

Vercelli Synagogue medal frontVercelli Synagogue medal reverse

Highlight Reel #4

Perhaps one of the most beautiful items in the Rosenthall Judaica Collection is an elaborately decorated bound manuscript created on the occasion of the dedication of the Versailles Synagogue on September 22, 1886. In between intricately carved wood covers are a hand painted dedication page, photographs of the interior and exterior of the synagogue in Versailles, and text of speeches given at the synagogue’s inauguration.

The carved wood cover of the manuscript bears Hebrew text excerpted from Proverbs 31: Many daughters have done valiantly, but thou excellest them all. This text is most likely in reference to Cécile Furtado-Heine, a French philanthropist whose contributions allowed for the building of the synagogue in Versailles.

A hand painted illustration at the beginning of the manuscript also pays tribute to Cécile Furtado-Heine’s role in the building of the synagogue: “Ce temple dédié à l’Eternel à été édifié par Madame Cécile Furtado Heine, que son nom passant de génération en génération soit béni septembre 1886.” This same inscription can be found on plaques at the entrance of the Versailles Synagogue.

Versailles Synagogue dedication

A second hand painted page shows the plan for the synagogue’s interior, the work of architect Paul Blondel. The architect Alfred-Philibert Aldrophe is responsible for the synagogue’s exterior.

Versailles Synagogue plans

The manuscript also contains large black-and-white photographs of the exterior and interior of the Versailles Synagogue at the time of the inauguration.

Versailles Synagogue exterior

Versailles Synagogue interior 1

Versailles Synagogue interior 2

Versailles Synagogue interior 3

The photographs are followed by the text of speeches given by Rabbi Zadoc Kahn, Rabbi Emmanuel Weill, and Rabbi Mahir Charleville on the occasion of the synagogue’s inauguration.

Versailles Synagogue speech Zadoc Kahn

The manuscript concludes with handwritten scores for two pieces composed by Jules Cohen, including the Shema Yisrael.

Versailles Synagogue Schema Israel title

Versailles Synagogue Schema Israel 1

New Upload! Jewish Institutions

The Lowcountry Digital Library has recently uploaded almost 150 postcards featuring a variety of Jewish institutions, including colleges, yeshivas, Talmud Torahs, orphanages, old age homes, and hospitals. The majority of these institutions are located in major American cities such as Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Baltimore, St. Louis, Denver, and Philadelphia. A smaller number of these institutions are located abroad in Israel, Poland, and Germany. Several postcards feature charitable funds and institutions of the Deutsch-Israelitischer Gemeindebund.

Below is a sampling of some of the recently uploaded items. For more postcards of Jewish institutions, search the Lowcountry Digital Library: William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection – Postcards.

Mount Sinai Hospital, New York

Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York

Hebrew Orphans Home, Atlanta

Orthodox Jewish Home for the Aged, Chicago

Jewish Orphan Asylum, Cleveland

Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati

Jewish Home for the Aged and Infirm, Cincinnati

Jewish Widows and Orphans Home, New Orleans

Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society, Denver

Yeshivat Lomza, Petah Tikva, Israel

Talmud Torah, Łódź, Poland

Fürsorgeerziehungsanstalt für schulentlassene israelitische Mädchen, Cöpenick, Germany

Jüdische Arbeiter-Kolonie, E.V., Weissensee

Highlight Reel #3

In a portfolio of miscellaneous prints, sandwiched between engravings of the Jewish priest Mattathias and posters of artwork commemorating the Holocaust, we found this handmade tribute to Hungarian merchant and philanthropist Philipp Schey von Koromla (in Hungarian, Schey Fülöp). Philipp Schey von Koromla was born on September 20, 1798, in Güns (Kőszeg); he died on June 26, 1881, in Baden bei Wien. He holds the distinction of being the first Jew in Hungary to be made an Austrian noble. His patent of nobility references his benevolence “toward suffering humanity, regardless of creed.”

Philipp Schey von Koromla

In addition to the photograph of Philipp Schey von Koromla in the center, this page includes photographs of the great contributions that he made to the town of Kőszeg. The photograph on the middle left shows the synagogue in Kőszeg, which can be seen in the center background. The Gothic Revival synagogue was built between 1858 and 1859 with donations from Philipp Schey von Koromla. A painting inside the cupola bears the words “in Ehre Gottes gebaut von Philipp Schey von Koromla” (built in praise of God by Philipp Schey von Koromla). The building still stands, but it has been deserted since the Jews of Kőszeg were deported in 1944.

This postcard from the Rosenthall portfolios gives a clearer view of the synagogue in Kőszeg.

This postcard from the Rosenthall portfolios gives a clearer view of the synagogue in Kőszeg.

The photograph in the lower center shows the Albrechtinum, which served as a house for the poor. The building was made up of living units for up to 15 people; the rooms were given out to the poor regardless of their religious confession. The building that housed the Albrechtinum is still standing and is today a residential building.

The photograph on the middle right is the Elisabethinum, a kindergarten built in 1868 with the support of Philipp Schey von Koromla. Children were admitted here regardless of religious confession. This building is no longer standing.

At the bottom is an excerpt of a poem by Hungarian poet Dániel Berzsenyi:

“A derék nem fél az idők mohától:
A koporsóból kitör és eget kér,
Érdemét a jók, nemesek s jövendő
Századok áldják.”

And the text of Psalm 37:37:

“Figyeld meg a feddhetetlent
nézd a becsületes,
Mert az ilyen ember jövője:

The Case of the Mistaken Tuesday

Processing Archivist Amy Lazarus and I recently had the opportunity to look into several reels of tape found with the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection. These reels were especially intriguing as we had no immediate way to listen to them and only the slightest hint at their content–a note slipped into one of the boxes indicating that they dated from Rabbi Rosenthall’s time at the Woodsdale Temple, home of Congregation L’Shem Shomayim in Wheeling, West Virginia. Rosenthall served as rabbi of this congregation from his appointment in August 1958 until he left in February 1962 to take the position of executive director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Audio reel

One of the reels from the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection

For assistance, we reached out to Rick Zender, curator of the John Rivers Communication Museum located on the College of Charleston campus. The museum holds a wide range of devices used throughout communication history, including radios, telephones, phonographs, and televisions. They also hold a reel-to-reel recorder, which Rick helped us use to listen to the reels of tape from the Rosenthall Collection.

Reel-to-reel tape recorder

Reel-to-reel recorder at the John Rivers Communication Museum

One of the reels contains a recording of a service held on the morning of Rosh Hashanah at the Woodsdale Temple. In the following clip, you can hear Rabbi Rosenthall reading from the prayer book during the service. Documents from Rosenthall’s personal papers tell us that the congregation adopted the Union Prayer Book in 1897; it was replaced by Gates of Prayer in 1975.


A second reel contains a recording of a skit performed at the 1959 convention of the West Virginia Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, which was held in Wheeling. A write-up in the June 1959 Woodsdale Temple Bulletin describes the convention:

“In the estimation of the ladies of the Congregation the outstanding event of the spring was undoubtedly the 31st Biennial Convention of the West Virginia Federation of Temple Sisterhoods of April 14 and 15. For the first time in many years our own organization was the hostess sisterhood. Wheeling buzzed with consecrated activity, and the afterglow is one of resounding success… Not only was Wheeling brought into bright focus in Sisterhood affairs by the convention itself but also–indeed, especially–by the happy assumption of the State presidency by our tireless Janis Stein. She succeeded Helene Rotgin of Charleston. A talented crew presented a delightfully amusing skit, ‘The Case of the Mistaken Tuesday’ after the buffet supper.”

June 1959 Woodsdale Temple Bulletin

June 1959 Woodsdale Temple Bulletin

“The Case of the Mistaken Tuesday” was written and directed by Irene Rosenthall, wife of Rabbi William A. Rosenthall. In the skit, a woman happens upon the Sisterhood convention while intending to attend a lecture by the rabbi entitled “Sex and Judaism,” which is actually scheduled to take place the following Tuesday. The members of the Sisterhood take the opportunity to explain to her the group’s purpose and activities in both word and song. Lyrics of hits from several contemporary musicals, including The King and I, My Fair Lady, Damn Yankees, Oklahoma!, and South Pacific are tweaked and utilized to elucidate these activities. In the following clip, Sisterhood members discuss several initiatives, including religious school teacher training and stationary sales, then describe the work of the Sisterhood “Caravan” to the tune of “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific.


The finale of the skit is a celebration of the convention set to the tune of the title song from Oklahoma!.


Highlight Reel #2

A particularly colorful part of the Rosenthall Collection is several dozen large format Rosh Hashanah pop-up cards. Rosenthall himself described these beautiful cards in a New Year’s message to his congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston.

He described the pop-up cards as “very old and unusual examples of Jewish Near Year cards, today a not insignificant business in America and in other parts of the world. Many of these cards are extraordinarily ornate, much more so than the most fancy available today, for the fold out and pop up and are remarkably colorful contrivances of paper lace and filigree. Not only are engaging religious scenes presented, but also flower-laden ships, automobiles and locomotives, all expressing a joyous ‘L’shanah Tovah’ wish to a delighted and perhaps dumbfounded recipient. Most of these fanciful, intricately manufacture cut-outs were produced in Germany around the turn of the century and very few have survived the many decades, let alone in good condition.”

The cards pictured below are only a sampling of those held in the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection.

Rosh Hashanah card 1

Rosh Hashanah card 2

Rosh Hashanah card 3

Rosh Hashanah card 4

Rosh Hashanah card 5

Rosh Hashanah card 6

For more information on Rosh Hashanah cards, see the article “Holiday Cheer” in the Summer 2003 issue of Pakn Treger : Magazine of the Yiddish Book Center.



Welcome Spring 2014 Interns!

Two fantastic interns have joined the Rosenthall project for the Spring semester, bringing with them Hebrew and German language skills, knowledge of Jewish and German culture, and a desire to learn more about the the prints and postcards held in the collection as they work to scan, re-house, and describe them. Meet our new interns:

Jamila Anderson

Jamila Anderson

Jamila Anderson is a senior at the College of Charleston with double majors in German and business administration, with a concentration in marketing. She is a native German speaker, and she is currently using her language expertise to research and translate a portfolio of prints containing German-language anti-Semitic caricatures. Jamila described why she enjoys working with the collection, and which print has interested her the most so far:

“What I found most interesting about the collection is that I am actually handling pieces of history, some of which are centuries old.  I find it amazing that I can start out with just a simple caricature, and after a bit of research have an entire story that goes along with the piece.  My favorite item is actually a series of seven engravings that reference the play “Unser Verkehr” by Karl B. Sessa.  These are my favorite items because they are all intertwined, and represent different components of the play.  I find it really interesting that there are so many different perspectives of this single topic, and that the entire series of engravings depict the plot of the play.”

Gabe Davidson

Gabe Davidson

Gabe Davidson is a junior at the College of Charleston majoring in philosophy. While living and studying on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in Israel for five months last year, he began to cultivate an interest in studying Jewish texts and familiarizing himself with some of the prominent thinkers and rabbis behind them. Gabe is looking forward to furthering his knowledge of Jewish history while working with an extensive collection of figures central to Jewish thought. He has been using his Hebrew language skills to complete a portfolio of postcards featuring rabbis and Jewish leaders, most of which contain texts only in Hebrew and Yiddish. Gabe found a postcard featuring a photograph of World War I flying ace Wilhelm Frankl to be the most interesting item he has seen so far:

“I chose the postcard of Wilhelm Frankl postcard as my favorite, due to the outstanding legacy of Frankl. He volunteered to fly for the German army in World War I, and quickly rose to the rank of lieutenant. He died in battle at the age of 23, but not before converting to Christianity for his wife.”

We appreciate all of the work our interns have done so far, and look forward to the remainder of the semester!

Highlight Reel #1

While processing the Rosenthall Judaica Collection, Processing Archivist Amy Lazarus has come across a variety of interesting items in formats outside of the scope of our postcard and print portfolios. From textiles to pop-up cards, commemorative plates to coins and medals, comic books to stamps, there are so many unique items to share with the world. What better way to do that than with a new series here on our blog, named, appropriately, Highlight Reel.

For the first installment of this series, we would like to share four photographs that we recently found. Enjoy!

Jewish Old Age Home, Harbin, Manchuria

Jewish Old Age Home, Harbin, Manchuria


World War I train Seder

Seder held in a Pullman car for soldiers returning from World War I, Detroit, April 1919


Congregation Beth Hamidrash Hagodal Nusach Sfard

Congregation Beth Hamidrash Hagodal Nusach Sfard, formerly located at 450 East 172nd Street, Bronx, NY


Ezra Hebrew School

Ezra Hebrew School, formerly located at 1745 Washington Avenue, Bronx, NY




New Upload! Eastern European Synagogues

In December, the Lowcountry Digital Library uploaded 430 new postcards from the Rosenthall Collection. These postcards come from two portfolios containing postcards of synagogues in countries in Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, and Bulgaria. A great many of these postcards display images of synagogues that have since been destroyed or are no longer used as synagogues.

Below is a sampling of some of the recently uploaded items. For more postcards of Eastern European synagogues, search the Lowcountry Digital Library: William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection – Postcards.

Synagogue (Hradec Králové, Czech Republic)

Synagogue (Hlohovec, Slovakia)

Great Synagogue (Łomża, Poland)

Synagogue (Tiszafüred, Hungary)

Karaite Kenesa (Yevpatoria, Ukraine)

Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius, Lithuania)

Choral Synagogue (Samara, Russia)

Orthodox Synagogue (Oradea, Romania)

Synagogue (Subotica, Serbia)

Synagogue (Lida, Belarus)

Synagogue (Liepāja, Latvia)

Synagogue (Tartu, Estonia)

Synagogue (Sofia, Bulgaria)

Processing Update: Postcards and Periodicals

We are happy to announce that processing of the loose postcards in the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection is complete! The postcards have been sorted into categories and rehoused in archival-quality boxes.

These postcards cover a variety of topics, including small amounts of synagogues, cemeteries and tombs, rabbis, and Rosh Hashanah cards, but the major focus of the loose postcards is scenes of Palestine and Israel. These postcards provide photographs of cities, including: Petah Tikva, Rishon LeZion, Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias, Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Jericho. The postcards also provide photographs of natural landmarks, such as the Dead Sea, Judaean Desert, Jezreel Valley, Mount Tabor, and Mount Gilboa. Of particular note are postcards with photographs of the yishuv and the Jewish Legion.

Box 1 of the Loose Postcard subseries.

Box 1 of the Loose Postcard subseries

We are also happy to share that we have finished an inventory of full-issue periodicals found in the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection. A list of these newspapers, magazines, and comic books can be found here: William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection Periodicals Series.

This series contains both national newspapers and newspapers published by Jewish communities in various parts of the world. The national newspapers found in the collection range from one to four editions and include reports on various aspects of Jewish life, such as social events, synagogue consecrations, and religious ceremonies. Content in national newspapers also includes reports of missionary efforts to ameliorate Jews, reports of Jewish criminals, and reports of anti-Semitism. Jewish community newspapers document social events, religious events, fundraising, and community news particular to a specific communities.