Archive for August 27, 2010

That one special High Holiday tune

This time of year always seems to bring on that yearning to hear that one song or melody from your childhood or from your previous congregation. For many years, I attended a small Sephardic shul.   The melodies were very different from the ones that I had grown up with – a combination of soulful Ashkenazi chants, Debbie Friedman melodies, and contemporary choral works.

One song from the Rosh HaShanah service in particular, stuck in my mind: Et shaarei ratzon. The words and the melody seemed to meld together perfectly into a haunting piece.  After moving away, Rosh HaShanah just didn’t seem complete without hearing it. I tried to find a recording of the piyut with that tune.  I found many (many!) different versions from beautiful to rather odd.  Yesterday, a co-worker reminded me of the site, An Invitation to Piyut.  It was easy to find this piyut and I listened to all the versions on the site.  But none were quite right.  I gave up and decided to just listen to some other hymns.  I clicked on the Yigdal page and chose Turkish High Holiday  and  voila! there was my Et shaarei ratzon melody!  If anyone knows of a recording with the words and melody combined – please let me know!

If you are in the mood to listen to liturgical or other Jewish music, there are many sites now that are posting audio files.  We collected them on our music page.  And let us know your music stories.

What’s cooking?

As promised, a sample of our newest acquisitions.

Goldman, Marcy
A treasury of Jewish holiday baking / Marcy Goldman.
North Vancouver, B.C. : Whitecap Books, c2009.
TX 763 G6.66 2009

Phillips, Denise
The Jewish mama’s kitchen / Denise Phillips.
London : Spruce ; New York : Distributed in the U. S. by Octopus Books USA, 2009.
TX 724 P4.83 2009


We keep most of our cookbooks in a separate cabinet by the lounge marked by a distinctive sign. You can grab one of these & contemplate your High Holy Days cooking aspirations comfortably sinking into the sofa @ the Bookwormhole!


Or you can treat yourself to Alicia Ostricker’s latest collection of poems:

Ostriker, Alicia
The book of seventy / Alicia Suskin Ostriker.
Pittsburgh, Pa.  University of Pittsburgh Press, c2009.
PS 3565 S8.4  B6.6 2009

Less poetic but no less interesting

Kirtzman, Andrew.
Betrayal : the life and lies of Bernie Madoff / Andrew Kirtzman.
New York, NY Harper, c2009.
HV 6692 M3.3  K5.7 2009

And for those of you who invest every free moment in the study of Torah:
Sacks, Jonathan, 1948-
Covenant & conversation, a weekly reading of the Jewish Bible: Genesis, the book of beginnings / Jonathan Sacks.
New Milford, CT: Maggid Books & The Orthodox Union, 2009.
BS 1235 .52 S3.3 2009


What’s New and What’s News @ The Frances-Henry Library

“Intensives” = our existential state @ HUC-LA this week: four days of intense study in preparation for the new school year. This term also describes our own preparations aimed at making your presence and use of the Library pleasant and easy.

To this end, I would like to (re)introduce you to the few ways in which you find out what’s new on the shelves:

You can look at the dust-jackets (“book covers”) on the bulletin board @ the library’s entrance. We try to present visual samples of the hardback books that come in and do so in no particular order. These books are mostly ready to be checked out by the time their jackets are posted.

We also have an alphabetical list of recent acquisitions on the Library web page – New Books – that you can link to, or

You can walk to the back of the Library and there, at the “entrance” to our new lounge (a.k.a. The Bookwormhole” until a better name comes up – or until somebody endow it :-) – you will find the turning book stand where new books are placed almost daily once they are fully processed.

And this IS what’s new @ the Frances-Henry Library. Come in & check out the comfort level. Tell us how we can improve it. This lounge is a work in progress, and good suggestions are welcome.

Finally, I will resort to my old ways and pick a few newly arrived books and offer short reviews/descriptions to help you decide which are the “must reads” that you can hoard by the side of your bed and struggle to find time to read them…(8 such gems are precariously piled on the headboard of my bed ;)

Here are some pictures of The Bookwormhole (and thank you Josh Garroway for asking)

Salomon Plessner’s First Publication

Salomon Plessner (1797-1883), an outstanding Orthodox Jewish preacher in 19th century Germany, is also remembered for his translation of the entire Apocrypha into Hebrew, which appeared in Berlin in 1833.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia (1907),

“At the age of seventeen Plessner began to study [Naphthali Herz] Wessely’s [partial] Hebrew translation of the Apocrypha, resolving to continue the translation himself. He indeed published at Breslau in 1819 his Hebrew translation of the Apocryphal additions to the Book of Esther, under the title “Hosafah li-Megillat Ester,” with a literary-historical introduction.”

Yet, strange to say, no copy of this 1819 publication was to be found either at or in the larger OCLC data-base.

That is, until yesterday, when I found a copy on our stacks, entering it today into OCLC.

Given the relative rarity of the item, it would be good to know its provenance. In the upper left-hand corner one can see the autograph of “M Brann.”

Brann (1849-1920) was a major player in the 19th century Wissenschaft des Judenthums “school” of scholarship. Based in Breslau at the Jüdisch-theologisches Seminar in Breslau, where he taught history, he also authored and edited scores of books and articles, as well as serving as editor in chief of the prestigious Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums from 1892 until 1919.

After his death, his library was put up for sale. The two major bidders were Jews’ College in London and Stephen S. Wise, who desired it to serve as a major basis for the library of the Jewish Institute of Religion, which he was founding.

Wise won, and the Jewish Chronicle published an editorial in which decried the loss to London and European Jewry.

And as they say, “ … the rest is history.”