Fourteenth Century Jewish Manuscript Is Returned to Vienna

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/19/03)

New York - An extremely rare 14th century-old Jewish manuscript of a central work of Jewish mysticism called the "Sepher Yetzirah," or Book of Creation, was presented to Erika Jakubovits, the executive director of the Israelite Religious Community of Vienna (IKG) by customs’ officials in New York. The valuable manuscript was submitted to by a small New Yorker auction house in spring 2002, but the auction house turned it over to the authorities at their request. The manuscript will be exhibited in the Jewish Museum in Vienna.

The "Sefer Yetzirah" is considered a pillar of cabalistic thought and seeks to interpret creation through ten divine numbers and the twenty-two Hebrew Letters. The Book of Creation is considered the oldest Hebrew cosmological work and is believed to have been written between the second and eighth centuries.

The manuscript was part of a collection belonging to the Viennese Rabbi, Adolf Jellinek, during the 19th century who gave it to the Israelite Theological Academy. In 1926 the Israelite Religious Community bought the academy’s entire inventory of books, and in 1939 the collection was confiscated by the SS and presumably transported to Berlin.

In her speech at a ceremony in Vienna celebrating the manuscript’s return, Frau Jakubovits emphasized that of the 350 valuable manuscripts once belonging to the Religious Community before 1938, only six have been found. Thus, the return of the manuscript is of great significance to the Community. She also pointed out that one will not give up on the search of the religious objects and written works which disappeared during the NS times.