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Jerusalem library gets 45,000 Jewish manuscripts from Yemen

The late Yehuda Levi Nahum assembled the collection over six decades.

The Nahum family formally deposits the collection with the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, Jan. 18, 2024. Photo by Rachel Neiman/NLI.
The Nahum family formally deposits the collection with the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, Jan. 18, 2024. Photo by Rachel Neiman/NLI.

The National Library of Israel in Jerusalem has received the world’s most extensive collection of Yemenite Jewish manuscripts.

The 60,000 items in the collection include notable pieces such as Judeo-Yemenite renditions of works by Maimonides (1138–1204) and Rabbi Yihya Saleh (1713–1805), known by the acronym Maharitz, who was one of the greatest exponents of Jewish law in Yemen, as well as centuries-old marriage certificates.

The items were endowed to the museum last Thursday by the family of the late Yehuda Levi Nahum (1915-1998), a Yemenite Jew who immigrated to pre-state Israel in 1929 at the age of 14. Over six decades, Nahum assembled the world’s most extensive collection of Yemenite-Jewish manuscripts.

The collection consists of some 45,000 manuscripts and legible fragments, and some 15,000 fragments extracted from book covers or removed from depositories of ancient books. About 70% of the collection has been scanned and added to the library’s digital preservation project.

“This important collection is a transformative addition to the library’s documentation of Yemenite-Jewish heritage that will enrich scholarship in this field for years to come,” said Dr. Chaim Neria, curator of the Haim and Hanna Solomon Judaica Collection at the National Library of Israel. “The library is dedicated to expanding its collections and making these materials as widely available as possible.”

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