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.

Thirty Scholarships for Jewish Pupils

Kronenzeitung (11/13/03)

The Zwi Peres Chajes School of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG) in Leopoldstadt in Vienna needs some 600,000 Euros (USD 750,000) in order to assure that the Jewish children in Vienna receive a proper education. Contributions have come from private donations, also from the Kronenzeitung.

Funding comes in the form of scholarships for individual pupils whose parents are unable to pay the school fees of 3,300 Euros annually. Some 100,000 Euros, that is, thirty scholarships, have been allotted for in this manner. Also the National Bank and well-known Austrian firms like Magna have donated generously.

At a celebration whereby the donations were presented to the IKG, President Ariel Muzicant claimed: "Jewish children mean Jewish life." And Marc Uri, representing the school, said: "The scholarships help the youths to find out where they belong and not feel torn. The school guarantees us that we can continue the teachings of Judaism."