This month, the Jewish Book Carnival is hosted by the Prosen People. Check out their links!
“Ghetto Gelt: smuggled out of Warsaw, Poland…circa 1980”. A white post-it, attached to a plain envelope containing a few frayed paper bills, one coin. A gift from a friend of the Frances-Henry Library who had taken a tour of our Rare Book Room a few days earlier. I open the envelope and carefully spread out the contents on my desk. My vision blurs, and for a split second I stop breathing. I am holding “money” printed by the Germans for the use of Polish Jews, in the Lodz Ghetto. My first thoughts: What did this money buy? For how long? The many hands that touched this money – which ones of them survived? Which ones didn’t? And now that we were given this gift, how can we ensure that they are made visible and become useful to our academic pursuits at Hebrew Union College?
I let Librarian sensibilities take over, and turn to Sheryl, our consummate cataloger, for help.
“Realia”, she determines, we’ll catalog them as artifacts. In our world, as Wikipedia explains, the term realia refers to three-dimensional objects from real life such as coins, etc., that do not easily fit into the orderly categories of printed material. They can be either man-made (artifacts, tools, utensils, etc.) or naturally occurring (specimens, samples, etc.), usually borrowed, purchased, or received as donation for use in classroom instruction or in exhibits.
Initial research yields a source that holds the details that will help us describe and place the money in its context: Jewish Ghettos’ and Concentration Camps’ Money (1933-1945) by Zvi Stahl (1990). The second chapter contains images identical to the paper money we now own, and the story behind the German decision to produce it. We now have the tools, and soon enough the objects are placed in protective envelopes and the record entered in our online catalog. They join items such as stamps, coins, photographs and playing cards that enrich our collection, presenting opportunities to touch, smell and make good use of tokens of our past.
Post script: the Lodz Ghetto money was presented to the library while I was away in Israel. During a visit with one of my uncles, Yaʻakov Refalovich, he presented me with a copy of his memoirs, hand-written by him, printed and bound by his grandchildren for his 80th birthday. One of the chapters in the books told the story of his survival in the Lodz Ghetto. Having been published in a limited edition, the book was placed in the Rare Book Room as well. A week before Holocaust Memorial day…and so it goes…
The term YaKNeHaZ—also pronounced YaKN-HaZ—is an acronym composed of the initial letters of five Hebrew words: yayin, kiddush, ner, havdalah, zeman. It is a “seman,” a mnemonic aid to remembering the correct order of the blessings of the kiddush and the havdalah when Passover coincides with the conclusion of Shabbat. If we tum to the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Pesahim, 102b-103a, we learn that Abaye taught that the correct order for these prayers was YaKaZNaH; while Rabba maintained it was YaKNeHaZ, and the halachah is according to Rabba.
In the earliest manuscript siddurim and haggadot, including the Mahzor Vitri and the Seder Rav Amram Gaon, as well as the Birds Head Haggadah and the Kauffmann Haggadah, the seman YakNeHaZ appears either before or immediately after the kiddush and havdalah prayers. This practice of including this seman continued through the centuries in both manuscript and then printed haggadot, but began to disappear from printed haggadot in the nineteenth century
YakNeHaZ sounds similar to the German phrase “jag den Häs, hunt the hare.” At some time unknown to us, and most likely in a German- speaking region, an artist illuminating a Haggadah decided that the insertion of a hare-hunt scene at this point in the liturgy was a suitably amusing piece of artistic whimsy, a punning pictorial witticism.
We have no data that reveals exactly when some illuminator first inserted a hare-hunt scene in a Haggadah adjacent to the seman yaknehaz or the kiddush which includes the havdalah.
Indeed, the attempt to find some solution to this question is potentially clouded by the prevalence of hare-hunting scenes in the broad genre of European manuscript illustration and in the narrower area of Jewish illuminated manuscripts. From the pre-Carolingian era, the hare hunt was a recurring motif in European illuminated manuscripts. In one type of image, a dog or dogs chase a hare or hares. In another, individuals, armed with various weapons and accompanied by dogs, chase after a hare or hares. In one style the hunter holds a boar spear—a spear with a large head and a cross-piece to prevent a charging boar “running-up” the spear and goring the hunter with its tusks—which certainly seems to be ironic overkill when hunting a rabbit!