X Close

UCL Special Collections

Home

Updates from one of the foremost university collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books in the UK

Menu

New Jewish pamphlets

Vanessa Freedman24 June 2022

The Hebrew & Jewish Studies Collections in UCL Special Collections include a treasure trove of material in the form of pamphlets. There are over 9,000 pamphlets on a wide range of subjects throughout the field of Jewish Studies, particularly Anglo-Jewish history, Zionism and liturgy. The pamphlets date from 1601 onwards, and are in English, Hebrew, German and a number of other languages.

In 2019 we completed a project to make these rich collections available to scholars and the general public. They are now catalogued in Explore, the most fragile items have been conserved, and a selection of them have been digitised.

We haven’t finished developing this collection though, as we are still acquiring pamphlets by purchase or donation. If you have any pamphlets that you would like to donate, please contact the Hebrew & Jewish Studies librarian.

Here are a few highlights from our recent acquisitions.

Bekhi tamrurim : be-yom evel u-misped ʻal aḥenu ḥalele ha-peraʻot be-artsot Polin : yom 5, 28 Siṿan 679 li-f.-ḳ = A service of prayer and mourning for the victims of the pogroms in Poland : Queen’s Hall, June 26th, 5679-1919

Cover of pamphletOne of the highlights of the pamphlet collection is a large number of orders of service for a variety of national and communal occasions. This particular service was a cross-communal event: published by the Office of the Chief Rabbi of the United (orthodox) Synagogue, those leading the service also included Rev S.J. Roco of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue and Rev Morris Joseph of the (Reform) West London Synagogue of British Jews. The occasion was a spate of attacks against Jews that took place in newly-independent Poland after the First World War. There were over 130 attacks against Jews in Polish territories between 1918 and 1921, causing around 300 deaths.[1] The Hebrew title Bekhi tamrurim means ‘bitter cry’.

 

 

A Palestine Munich? by R.H.S. Crossman and Michael Foot

Cover of pamphletIn this ‘provocative’[2] pamphlet, published in 1946, left-wing backbench MPs Richard Crossman and Michael Foot (later leader of the Labour Party) attack the Labour Government’s policy on Palestine. They criticise the government for indecision and compare the restriction of Jewish immigration in order to avoid Arab opposition to the pre-war appeasement of Hitler (hence the title). The pamphlet argues for the partition of Palestine to form a Jewish state and an enlarged Transjordan.

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, a fascinating oddity:

Teʻudah Yehudit = Idisher doḳumenṭ = Jewish certificate

Cover of pamphletThis ‘Jewish Certificate’, in Hebrew, Yiddish, English and Arabic, looks like a passport and includes space for the holder’s photograph, signature and personal details. It proclaims that ‘the bearer of this certificate is a Jew not a Zionist and has no connection with the nationalist movement which has gained control over the Holy Land and turned it into a Zionist state by falsely assuming the Jewish names of Zion and Israel’. It was produced in 1976 or 1977 by the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox group Neturei Karta, some of whose members refuse to carry an Israeli identity card[3].

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Anna Cichopek-Gajraj and Glenn Dynner, “Pogroms in Modern Poland, 1918–1946,” in Pogroms: A Documentary History, ed. Eugene M. Avrutin and Elissa Bemporad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), 193.

[2] Kenneth O. Morgan, “Foot, Michael Mackintosh (1913–2010), journalist, politician, and author,” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2016).

[3] Menachem Friedman, “Neturei Karta,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik (Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007).

The Trades Advisory Council – countering antisemitism and fascism in 20th-century Britain

Kurt M Jameson3 February 2022

The Trades Advisory Council of British Jewry (TAC) was formed in 1938, to counter antisemitism in the sphere of trade. The TAC archives capture the history of fascism and antisemitism in mid-20th century Britain, and the history of those who fought back.

Black-and-white portrait photograph of Maurice Orbach.

A photograph of Maurice Orbach, by Walter Stoneman (1949). © National Portrait Gallery, London (link to image). Provided under Creative Commons licence BY-NC-ND 3.0

UCL has a collection of TAC archives, which has recently been fully catalogued. This collection appears to have originally been accumulated by Maurice Orbach (pictured), who was General Secretary of the TAC from 1940 until his death in 1979. The TAC began as a sub-committee of the Defence Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, but it became more independent over time. In their own words, the TAC’s aim was “eliminating friction in industry between Jews and non-Jews”. From the surviving TAC minute books, correspondence, and a large case book from the 1940s, we are able to see what this meant in practice.

The TAC would often intervene to apply pressure on businesses, if Jewish workers or Jewish customers were experiencing discrimination. Some of these people that the TAC helped in the 1940s were Jewish refugees fleeing mainland Europe due to the spread of fascism. In other cases, the TAC would act as mediators in disputes involving Jewish businesses. Their work therefore also involved forming relationships with various unions and trade bodies. Another aspect of the TAC’s work was to challenge antisemitic statements and characterisations that appeared in the media.

A photo of text from a leaflet entitled 'The Objects of the Trades Advisory Council'

An excerpt from a TAC leaflet, c.1940 (found in scrapbook TAC/2/1)

The TAC’s activities have resulted in a vast collection of press cuttings and antisemitic material, and the creation of files about individuals and organisations which the TAC suspected of being fascist. Many of these people were openly fascist, such as Oswald Mosley (who founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932). It is not entirely clear whether all of this material was collected for the TAC’s activities, or if some of it was collected for Maurice Orbach’s personal files (he was also an MP and a campaigner against racial discrimination), but regardless this collection now provides a vast trove of newspaper cuttings, leaflets, newsletters, pamphlets, and letters regarding antisemitism and fascism in Europe in the mid-20th century. Large scrapbooks have been filled with hundreds of newspaper cuttings reporting the activities of fascist groups, and of instances of antisemitism in the press. These files also include letters containing antisemitic abuse and threats, some of which had been sent directly to Orbach. The far-right leaflets and pamphlets in this collection demonstrate that many of the antisemitic conspiracy theories around on the internet today were also circulating in Britain in the mid-20th century.

Two open TAC scrapbooks

A scrapbook (TAC/2/1) showing TAC material from 1942; and a scrapbook of press cuttings from 1937 (TAC/7/2)

The creator of these files and scrapbooks (probably Orbach himself) also collected material on those who fought back, and many of the scrapbooks have been given the title ‘Anti-Fascist’. The press cuttings capture the activities of individuals and groups who protested at fascist events, and who broke up meetings of fascist groups. For example, this material covers the actions of those who confronted Mosley and the Blackshirts in the streets in the 1930s, and it also includes a file on the Yellow Star movement, who opposed Mosley and his Union Movement on the streets in the 1960s.

Although much of the material in this collection consists of newspaper cuttings, which have already been published, the fact that such a comprehensive collection of articles has been carefully arranged means that the scrapbooks could be a useful resource for researchers into fascism, antisemitism, and anti-fascist organising. The internal TAC archives on the other hand offer a unique insight into the activities of some of those who worked to counter antisemitism in mid-20th century Britain.

The catalogue description for the TAC collection can be viewed online via this page, by searching for ‘TAC’: https://archives.ucl.ac.uk/CalmView/

To make an appointment to view any of the files in the TAC collection, please contact us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk

Happy Hanukkah

Sarah S Pipkin6 December 2021

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light, takes place this year from the evening of 28th November through to the evening of 6th December. We have put together eight Hanukkah-related videos showing items from our collections, one for each night of the festival.

1. Title page of Mocatta Mahzor.

The Mocatta Mahzor (MS MOCATTA/2) is an Italian illuminated manuscript containing prayers for the whole year, including Hanukkah.

 

2. Prayers for Hanukkah

This video shows the prayers for Hanukkah from the Mocatta MahzorItalian mahzorim generally include not only prayers for the major festivals like Passover but also minor ones like Hanukkah, as well as ordinary weekdays and sabbaths 

3. Piyyutim

Some prayerbooks contain piyyutim (liturgical poems) for special sabbaths, including the one(s) in Hanukkah – here’s one from the Mocatta Mahzor. 

 

4. Hallel psalms

The Hallel psalms (Psalms 113-118) are recited on most festivals including Hanukkah. These are the Hallel psalms from the Mocatta Mahzor. 

 

5. Binding of a 17th century Ḥumash 

On the festival of light you can see how the light reflects off the binding and gilt edges of this Ḥumash (a volume containing the Five Books of Moses), which was printed in Amsterdam in 1665 or 1666. It has a fine binding of Dutch morocco, with gilt gauffred edges (STRONG ROOM MOCATTA QB 12 TAR c1) .

 

6. Title page of the Ḥumash 

This video shows the coloured title page of the Ḥumash and part of the portion of Miḳets (Genesis 41:1-44:17), which is frequently read on the Sabbath during Hanukkah.  

 

7. Odekha ki anafta

Here’s another Hanukkah piyyut (liturgical poem), Odekha ki anafta. It comes from a 19th century Viennese manuscript collection of piyyutim (MS MOCATTA/25). The gory illustration is from the story of Judith, who is often associated with Hanukkah. 

 

8. Mocatta Haggadah

This is a bit of a stretch for Hanukkah as it’s actually from the Mocatta Haggadah (MS MOCATTA/1) for Passover. But it shows the Hallel psalms which are also recited on Hanukkah and it’s shiny and reflects the light on the festival of light! 

 

If you’d like to learn more about the Mocatta Mahzor, UCL’s Jewish and Hebrew Studies Subject Liason Librarian has put together a video about the Mahzor and how it came into our collection! You can view it on the Special Collections Moodle Page – just self enrole in order to access the page.

Thank you to Vanessa Freedman for choosing books from the Mocatta collection and for writing about each item!

Bridging the Digital Gap (Part II)

isabelle.reynolds-logue.1318 July 2019

In my last post I explained what I have been up to for the last 9 months as the Bridging the Digital Gap trainee at UCL. Now, I will show you some of my favourite digitisation projects so far…

The UCL College Collection

The UCL College Collection contains, among other things, photographs of the exterior and interior of UCL buildings.

This photograph looking towards Gordon Street (Gordon Square is signified by the trees in the background) features some graffiti from the mid-twentieth century: ‘Merry Xmas. Love peace anarchy.’

Technicians seen posing on the ruins of the Great Hall at UCL in the 1950s.

The issue desk at the Main Library post-1951.

Bomb damage to the Main Library after the Second World War.

The Little Magazines Collection

The Little Magazines Collection was set up in 1964 to gather together little magazines from the UK, North America, Commonwealth and Europe. We have defined Little Magazines as “those which publish creative, often innovative work, with little or no regard for commercial gain.” You can learn more about the collection here.

Cover of ‘Gargoyle’ Number Two, 1921.

A page from ‘The Owl: A Miscellany’ 1919.

Jewish Pamphlets

I worked on a joint project with Dr. Maria Kiladi to digitise the Jewish Pamphlets Collection.

One challenge with these was that some pamphlets were read from right to left, when in Hebrew, as opposed to ones written in English. Another challenge was that I am unable to read Hebrew, so with pages entirely in Hebrew it was not easy to know which way round they were supposed to be. Additionally, the pages containing Hebrew characters were automatically rotated by the OCR software when generating PDFs, so I had to manually go through these and change them individually.

The entire collection can be found in our digital collections repository.

The cover of one of the pamphlets.

Library Exhibition

Again working alongside Maria, we digitised material that was going to be on display for the exhibition, ‘From Small Library Beginnings: a brief history of UCL Library Services.’ The photographs are online but were also printed in the exhibition catalogue. You can see more items from the exhibition online.

1935 Block Plan of University College London.

Dante’s Divine Comedy

This copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy features illustrations that go across a double page spread. This is not straightforward to capture with one camera pointing down towards the item, as the print is not flat, and cannot be made flat. There was also a problem of shadow appearing in the centre along the gutter. In order to capture the print as best I could, I ended up taking two separate images, on of each side of the book so that there is even illumination, and merging them in Photoshop.

You can read more about this item here.

Slade Archive Reader

Finally, the Slade Archive Reader is now available as four fully digitised, searchable PDFs, which you can view here.

My first thought was, why, if this is a printed, word processed document, do we not have a digital copy already? Unfortunately this is often the case with older word processed material. So, we have the task of re-digitising something that was already digital! Once we began looking at the volumes, it was clear that digitising the Slade Archive Reader would not be without its fair share of challenges. Primarily, the four volumes are bound quite tightly, which made it hard for me to keep the pages flat when photographing them. This curvature of the pages leads to a distortion of the text, which in turn makes it difficult for the OCR software to pick up.

You can browse all of our digital collections online here.

UCL Special Collections is committed to making digitised content available online. Although every effort has been made to identify and contact rights holders, we recognise that sometimes material published online may be in breach of copyright laws, contain sensitive personal data, or include content that may be regarded as obscene or defamatory.

If you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material on our Digital Collections repository for which you have not given permission, or that is not covered by a limitation or exception in national law, please contact us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk

UCL Special Collections Presents…

Helen Biggs21 May 2018

We’re excited to announce UCL Special Collections Presents… – a day of talks and displays in UCL’s South Junction Reading Room on Tuesday, June 5th.

Join our team of friendly archivists and librarians at the South Junction Reading Room to hear about some of their favourite Special Collections items in an informal setting. Come face to face with exquisite treasures, learn about the work of our conservators, and discover which curious tomes our volunteers have been studying.

We are running a range of sessions throughout the day, including:

11am-11:30 and 11:30am-12pm:
Protest songs for equal pay
A balloon’s eye view: historical maps of London
Maps from the Jewish Pamphlets collection

12-12:30pm and 12:30-1pm:
A history of the book
“Confessions of a Down and Out in London and Paris”: gems from George Orwell’s archive

1-1:30pm and 1:30pm-2pm:
UCL’s student disruptors
Small Press magazines on vinyl

2-2:30pm and 2:30-3pm:
Jeremy Bentham and Lord Brougham, social reformers
Enid Blyton’s Teacher’s Treasury

3-3:30pm and 3:30-4pm:
Medical and Scientific Manuscripts and Rare Books
A 14th Century Haggadah, and other Jewish and Hebrew treasures

When: Tuesday, 5th June, 11am-4pm

Where: South Junction Reading Room, Wilkins Building, University College London, WC1E 6HJ

Book your free tickets now!