Author Archives: David Frankel, Ph.D. student, History of Judaism, and Anne K. Knafl, Bibliographer for Religion and Philosophy

Jewish Liturgy through the Ages: Nusaḥ Ashkenaz 1795-2015

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor.
Exhibit Dates: July 7 – September 30, 2015

Who knows what you can find in the stacks of the Regenstein Library? David Frankel, Ph.D student in History of Judaism at the Divinity School, went looking and discovered a fascinating assortment of Jewish prayer books (siddurim, singular: siddur). The siddur, perhaps even more than the Talmud or the Bible, has been the practical guide for Jewish people since the inception of printed Hebrew in the 16th century. The availability of books contributed to the all-encompassing nature of the liturgical texts included in siddurim.

A handwritten prayer added to a siddur

A handwritten prayer added to a siddur, published in Prague in 1839, on display in this exhibit.

While the siddur is first and foremost a book for the laity, it also offers scholars of Jewish Studies a glimpse into the history of Jewish ritual practice. The subfield of Jewish Liturgy within Jewish Studies provides the discipline at large with a broad understanding of not only the religious developments of Jews but also historically significant evidence. Prayer books can be used to track the movements of populations of Jews through time and space. Even when intellectual activities were scant, prayer books were commonly produced and provide scholars today with a way to peer into the world of Jewish societies that would otherwise have been lost to the ages.

A handwritten recipe for “tar beer” added to a siddur

A handwritten recipe for “tar beer” added to a siddur, published in Prague in 1839, on display in this exhibit.

Displayed in the exhibit are siddurim published between 1795 and 2015. Not displayed in the exhibit, but pictured here, are two “texts” added to final pages of one of the siddurim of the exhibit, Siddur kol tefillot u-teḥinnah (Prague, M. Landau, 1839). The first is a beautifully, handwritten additional prayer and the second is a recipe for “tar beer,” a mixture of tar and beer used medicinally in Jewish communities in the 19th century.

The Spirit of the Nation or the War between the Jews and Sanballat: A Gift to the Jewish Studies Collection

Book cover of The Spirit of the Nation in Hebrew

Book cover of The Spirit of the Nation by Kless

Few voices like that of Menachem Mendel ben Hayim Kless have emerged to shed light on the emotional sentiments of the first Eastern European Jews who left their homes and lives behind to venture to Ottoman Palestine in the 1880s during the First Aliyah, a period that saw the emigration of tens of thousands of Jews. His book Ruah ha-Le’om (Kishinev: Tipografīi︠a︡. A.S. Stepanovoĭ, 1890) is one such voice. Thanks to the generosity of Linda Stern, a descendent of Kless, the University of Chicago Library is now one of only four libraries worldwide that holds a copy. The copy donated by Ms. Stern is in excellent condition and an excellent complement to the Ludwig Rosenberger Collection of Judaica. It is available for viewing through the Special Collections Research Center as well as accessible in digitized form through HathiTrust (title page pictured here).

As a participant in the Hibbat Tsiyon (Love of Zion) movement, Kless composed the work as a plea to its readers imploring them to follow their coreligionists out of a continent that had turned against them upon the ascension of Alexander III of Russia. Throughout this short book, Kless employs the metaphor of the opposition of Sanballat the Horonite to the construction of the Second Temple in Nehemiah’s time (see especially Nehemiah 4). Written entirely as an address to the reader and containing within it references to the Bible and rabbinic literature, the Ruah ha-Le’om reads like a well-crafted sermon – a pietistic rallying cry.

: Receipt for money wired from Bella Greenspan in Israel to her brother Leizar Kless

Receipt for money wired from Bella Greenspan (née Kless) in Israel to her brother Leizar Kless, ca. 1900 (image taken by Linda Stern).

Reading Ruah ha-Le’om serves to compliment the reading of more well-known works by the Hovevei Tsiyon (Lovers of Zion), most notably Leon Pinsker’s famous German language pamphlet Auto-Emancipation (1882) as well as the many works by the famed Hebrew essayist Ahad Ha’am. Reading Kless’s work in light of these two thinkers is of particular interest to those interested in the history of the revival of Hebrew as the official language of Jewish settlements in Palestine and eventually as the national language of Israel. When considering the debate between the rival Hebrew and German factions, we ought to consider a work like Ruah ha-Le’om as an influential factor.

Menachem Mendel Kless (1846-1916) was born and lived much of his life in Poland. He wrote Ruah ha-Le’om while he was still in Europe. After arriving to Palestine in 1902, Kless along with many of the Hovevei Tsiyon took up residence in Rishon le-Tsiyon, one of the first pre-state Jewish settlements, where he was a Hebrew teacher. Menachem’s devotion to Palestine was not uniformly shared by his children. According to family letters held by the donor, Linda Stern, we learn that only two children, Bella and Haim, remained in Palestine. Two children, Keila and Fabi, left for Egypt, though Fabi later returned at the end of his life. Keila’s daughter married a British citizen and moved to England after the Second World War. Menachem’s youngest daughter, Nehama, immigrated first to Berlin and then Riga and likely did not survive World War II. Leizar, later Louis, left Palestine early in his life and eventually settled in New York. He is the great grandfather of the donor, Linda Stern.

One Man’s Trash . . . Discovering New Ancient Greek Texts

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: February 19 – June 15, 2015

Greek Vase Painting, Muse reading scroll

Muse reading a scroll.
Attic red-figure lekythos, ca. 435-425 BCE

Imagine trying to sort out and assemble thousands of scattered pieces of jigsaw puzzles; imagine that they are as fragile and misshapen as cornflakes and that many pieces are missing. The task is only beginning to resemble the monumental efforts of today’s papyrologists, who continue to work on the Greek papyrus fragments uncovered in the late 19th century from the sands of ancient trash heaps located outside of the city of Oxyrhynchus (modern el-Bahnasa), Egypt.  It has been said that over 70 percent of surviving literary papyri come from Oxyrhynchus, among which are a new poem by Simonides, extensive remains of the Hypsipyle of Euripides, and a large part of the Ichneutae of Sophocles.

This one-case exhibit explores the various ways new works have come to light since the Renaissance, when so many manuscripts were rediscovered in monastic libraries.   Two new poems by Sappho, for example, were discovered  just this year in an Egyptian cartonnage.  In the Ptolemaic period ancients used recycled papyrus (much as we use recycled newspapers in papier-mâché) to construct cartonnages i.e. mummy masks and panels.  Modern science has opened the door for more discoveries.  Multispectral lighting helps us read palimpsests, which are manuscripts on which the original writing has been washed and/or scraped off in order that the parchment be reused for another text.  In France a team of scientists has used a particle accelerator to bombard an unopened, charred papyrus scroll from the Villa of Papyri in Herculaneum with X-rays.  The X-rays were so sensitive that they could detect changes in thickness where carbon-based ink had been used to write letters. The team could make out the Greek letters inside the tightly wound scroll.

Charred Papyrus Scroll

Charred Papyrus Scroll from the Villa of Papyri

The Archimedes Palimpsest under multispectral lighting

The Archimedes Palimpsest under multispectral lighting

Bestiaries: Representations of animals in 20th century Romance languages and literatures

The Joseph Regenstein Library, Third Floor
April 10 – June 13, 2015

A.	A.	Woodcut image of a dolphin originally accompanying a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire in his work ““Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée” (1911).

Woodcut by Raoul Dufy from Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée” (1911)

Books representing animals metamorphose and mutate; they might creep, crawl, or leap onto your shelf, surprise you, pique your interest, and make you reconsider your conception of ‘animal’ and human altogether.  This exhibition dives into the 3rd floor stacks to seek out the most interesting textual and visual representations of contemporary bestiaries written in the Romance languages.  The final selection of books found in this exhibition illustrates the expanding definition of the bestiary and its portrayal of all things beastly in the 20th century.

B. Woodcut image of an ox originally accompanying a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire in his work “Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée” (1911).

Woodcut by Raoul Dufy from Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Le Bestiaire ou Cortège d’Orphée” (1911)





Meaning Found in Comparison: An Exhibit in memory of Martin Riesebrodt (1948-2014)

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: March 16 – May 31, 2015

Martin Riesebrodt

Martin Riesebrodt in his office in Swift Hall

“What’s interesting in the uniqueness of everything? Uniqueness has to be related to something that is shared in order to become really interesting.” Martin Riesebrodt defended both the possibility of a universal definition of religion and the ability and importance of critical comparisons across religions. This at a time when the fields of Religion and Sociology were questioning comparative approaches. Trained in anthropology and sociology, he began his career as an associate director of the Max Weber Archives and one of the editors of a German critical edition of Weber’s work, Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe

Martin Riesebrodt

Martin Riesebrodt in 2011

He joined the faculty at the Divinity School in 1990, with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology. Riesebrodt is credited with reintroducing the relevance of the Weberian approach in Sociology. He is probably best known for his work on his theory of fundamentalism as a reassertion of patriarchal power structures in Pious Passion: The Emergence of Modern Fundamentalism in the United States and Iran (University of California Press, 1993; German original 1990). In his retirement, he taught at the Graduate Institute in Geneva as the Yves Oltramare Chair for Religion and Politics. Dr. Riesebrodt died December 6, 2014, of cancer in Berlin. He was 66.

Chinese New Year paintings held in the Shanghai Library

Exhibit Location:  The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fifth Floor
Exhibit Dates: October 31, 2014 – February 28, 2015 

The children of a wealthy family are playing drums and suona to celebrate the New Year. In the background the grandfather scold a naughty child.

The children of a wealthy family are playing drums and suona to celebrate the New Year. In the background the grandfather attends to his grandchild.

Chinese New Year painting is a unique and fascinating  genre of Chinese painting.   Customarily, these paintings are often posted by Chinese people in their homes to celebrate the New Year, offering hopes and blessings for an auspicious and happy New Year.

A family is celebrating the Lantern Festival.

A family reunion during the Lantern Festival. The peonies and plum blossoms in the vase indicate the season and create a festive atmosphere.

Over the years, the Shanghai Library has collected over 4,000 New Year paintings produced from the end of the Qing Dynasty to the early years of the Republican Period. This exhibition displays 10 replicas of New Year paintings selected by the Shanghai Library from their collection, which focus on local products and cover eight topics including, for example, “Good Fortune,” “Happy Family,” “Auspicious New Year”, “Celebrating the Lantern Festival,” and “Children at Play.”

The three gods, Fu, Lu and Shou (good fortune, prosperity,and longevity) are pictured.

Good fortune, prosperity, longevity and happiness (fu lu shou xi) are words commonly used in traditional Chinese customs for good wishes. The three gods, Fu, Lu and Shou, are pictured.

From Gnostics to U-Boats: The Work of Robert McQueen Grant (1917-2014)

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor.

Exhibit Dates: October 20, 2014 – December 13, 2014

Grant in his retirement

Grant in his retirement

Grant as a young man

Grant as a young man in his office in Swift Hall.


Robert McQueen Grant was the most prolific and influential American historian of ancient Christianity of his generation. His research helped establish New Testament Studies as an historical endeavor that must take into account the full context of the Hellenistic world. His research interests were broad. He published multiple books on Gnosticism, an introduction to the New Testament that was later translated into French and an encyclopedia of the use of animals in early Christian literature. At the same time, he was an international authority on U-Boats in World War I. Robert McQueen Gant began teaching at the Divinity School in 1953. He passed away at his home in Hyde Park on June 10, 2014 at the age of 96. This exhibit displays paradigmatic works from his career, showcasing Grant’s breadth and depth as a scholar.

August 1914: The Eastern Front

Exhibition Location: Regenstein Library, Second Floor Reading Room
Dates: August 1 – December 31, 2014

Map of Europe in 1914In August 1914, most of the countries that we now think of as Eastern Europe (or Central Europe or Southeastern Europe or East Central Europe (nothing about this area of the world is less than complex and multi-faceted!) were either part of one or another of the region’s multinational, multilingual, and multi-religious empires—the Russian Empire, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Ottoman Empire—or had just recently struggled free from decades or centuries of imperial rule. On this centennial of the beginning of The Great War, this two-case exhibit attempts to place these countries “on the map” as they were in August 1914. It is an almost impossible task, as the complexity of the borders, alliances, relationships and aspirations of these crumbling empires and emerging nations were to clash mightily and disastrously as they positioned themselves on the Eastern Front.

Super Metroid: A 20th Anniversary exhibit extended to March 22

Original Japanese Super Metroid Box

Original Japanese Super Metroid Box

Exhibit Title: Super Metroid: A 20th Anniversary
Dates: January 28 – March 22, 2014
Location: Regenstein Library, Third Floor and

One of the greatest games of all time, Super Metroid was released on March 19, 1994. It is praised for visual style and graphics, atmospheric sound design and music, and detailed environments, as well as refined controls and gameplay.

Recognizing the 20th anniversary of the game’s release, this exhibit celebrates the art of the videogame as seen in one of its early classics.  Additionally, the exhibit explores the creative activity that lies beyond the game itself, from concept art and promotional materials to the fan art the game still inspires twenty years later. The great diversity of these ancillary pieces, the variety of styles and media used to promote and interpret the game, its characters and world, remains one of the most fascinating parts of its history. The one-case exhibit on the third floor complements the online portion of the exhibit (and vice versa).

 Update, 2/27/14: The closing date of the exhibit has been extended to March 22.

O Homer, Where Art Thou? Adaptations of the Iliad and Odyssey: Ancient and Modern

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: January 5 – February 28, 2014

DVD box of the film O Brother, Where Art ThouWhat do The Penelopiad of Margaret Atwood, the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou, and James Joyce’s Ulysses have in common? They were all inspired by the Odyssey of Homer.

The Iliad and the Odyssey have fascinated us for nearly 3,000 years, inspiring authors of all ages to produce a variety of creative and distinctive adaptations. Some writers have simply retold the stories in abridged form, maybe for a younger audience or simply to emphasize the most dramatic segments.  Others have retold the tales, but set them in a different time period, sometimes far into the future or in a different setting miles from the Mediterranean.  Retelling the events of the Iliad and Odyssey from another’s point of view has been a favorite vehicle for adaptation.  These narratives, either viewed through the eyes of one of the main characters or through completely made up figures, often purport to correct the Homeric account.  Sometimes an elaborate hoax serves as a narrative frame.  And, of course, parodies are an amusing nod to Homer and always delight.

Cover of Odyssey comic book published inHeavy Metal

Navarro, Francisco and José Sauri, The Odyssey (Rockville Centre, NY: Heavy Metal, 2007).

Stories from the Iliad and Odyssey have also been favorites with illustrators, both ancient and modern.  In the exhibit comic books and graphic novels are displayed alongside photographs of ancient marble panels with captioned scenes of the Homeric epics carved in low relief and a series of Roman wall paintings depicting the colorful events  of Odysseus’s voyage.

While the epics may have begun with the voice of a singing bard, they have found their way into a wide array of new media: on a stage as a play, musical, or opera, over the air waves in radio programs and television shows, and onto the silver screen from silent film to Hollywood blockbuster.

This two-case exhibit was designed as a companion exhibit to “Homer in Print: The Transmission and Reception of Homer’s Works,” running from January 13 – March 15, 2014 in the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery in the Joseph Regenstein Library, First Floor.