A fascinating story of a unique book collector, worthy of attention by scholars and lay readers alike.



One man’s vast library provides a glimpse into the era of early modern Judaism.

In his debut book, Teplitsky (History/Stony Brook Univ.) explores the extraordinary personal library of Rabbi David Oppenheim (1664-1736), one of the most important Jewish leaders of his day. Through his examination of this library, the author touches on a number of topics: Jewish learning and hierarchy of the times, the place of Jews in early modern Europe, and, more broadly, the importance of books and the passion behind collecting. Oppenheim, chief rabbi of Prague and scion to one of central Europe’s most influential Jewish families, began deliberately collecting books and other printed materials in Hebrew and Yiddish at an early age. By the height of his influence, the library he had amassed represented the largest collection of Judaica in existence, serving as a storehouse of intellectual, political, and religious power. Teplitsky makes clear that books in the late-17th and early-18th centuries were revered objects, “never free of their status as a store of value, nor were they empty of sentimental and even metaphysical power.” This respect for published works accorded Oppenheim additional status and power in his role. “Oppenheim’s library,” writes the author, “offered him a means to assert superiority over his rabbinic colleagues on account of his ability to marshal and manage an ever-growing body of documentation and knowledge.” Despite the respect he received, Oppenheim found himself embroiled in controversies with Catholic authorities over his role in helping publish Jewish works as well as the authority with which he acted in his own community, in a time and place where Jewish nationality was questioned and threatened with regularity. Finally, Teplitsky explores the meaning of the library as a symbol of Judaism itself, a collection that represents diaspora; in the end, it was purchased away from the Jewish community to be housed at the Bodleian Library of Oxford.

A fascinating story of a unique book collector, worthy of attention by scholars and lay readers alike.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-300-23490-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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