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Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University
Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

Heschel Highlights, Part 7

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 12:13

“Alas! My teacher Rabbi Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel is no more…He left this troubled world immensely enriched by his brief presence and sojourn thereon. Demanding of none but himself, Rabbi Heschel’s life was a model for others to follow.”

The Weekly Original Gospel, 1973

The Abraham Joshua Heschel papers abound with examples of Heschel’s commitment to interfaith work as well as commemorations written after Heschel’s death, and the commemoration quoted above highlights both of these aspects.  Jacob Teshima, the author of the commemoration above, was a student of Heschel’s at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). He was also the son of Ikuro Teshima, founder of the Japanese Makuya (tabernacle) movement, or the Original Gospel Movement. The Makuya movement is made up of Japanese Christians who are dedicated to a return to the faith of Hebraic Christianity. This commemoration appeared in a publication of the movement, The Weekly Original Gospel. As part of his commitment to Israel and its people, Ikuro Teshima encouraged Makuya members to learn Hebrew and visit Israel. Ikuro Teshima met with many Jewish leaders in his lifetime including Martin Buber and Zvi Yehuda Kook and spread their teachings to Makuya members.

After helping his father lead the Makuya movement for a few years, Jacob Teshima traveled to New York to work towards his Doctorate of Hebrew Letters (DHL) at JTS. He studied Hasidism under Heschel at JTS and his thesis was entitled “Zen Buddhism and Hasidism: A Comparative Study.” Jacob Teshima’s commemoration reveals his deep respect for Heschel as a teacher and as a religious leader: “Ah, my Rabbi, my dear friend, Abraham Heschel, God’s spokesman in the 20th century of this Earth.”

Heschel addresses the Makuya Pilgrims

 When Jacob Teshima was learning from Heschel at JTS, Ikuro Teshima and Heschel began corresponding. According to the letters we have in the Abraham Joshua Heschel papers, Ikuro Teshima hoped to bring Heschel to Japan. On April 23, 1971, Teshima wrote that his son Jacob was “thoroughly enjoying” Heschel’s class and invited Heschel to give lectures in Tokyo and Osaka. He offered to book the round trip air-ticket and was eagerly awaiting his arrival. “Shalom from Japan!” another letter from July 22, 1971 began excitedly. The letter continued, “Our prayer is that, after your visit to Japan, you will remember Japan as your third home, perhaps dearer than America.” Besides extending these invitations to Heschel, Ikuro Teshima also translated God in Search of Man into Japanese and published his translation.

Heschel in his study

In his commemoration, Jacob Teshima included a vignette about a meeting with Heschel on December 22, 1972. Jacob quoted Heschel’s words that afternoon: “Jacob, when I regain my strength, but who knows when that will be; maybe February if I’m lucky; anyhow in May, I hope to visit Japan. I hope you’ll accompany me, Jacob. I’d like to meet your father and see the Makuya people who are so aflame with God’s love.” Unfortunately, Heschel passed away the next day and never fulfilled his wish to visit Japan. But thanks to the Makuya movement’s translation of his books and their dedication to his teachings, Heschel’s presence is alive and well in Japan.

Post contributed by Adrienne Krone, Heschel Processing Assistant


Preserving Radio Haiti

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 13:00

The Radio Haiti Records are the fruit of the work of Haitian dissident and “agronomist” Jean Dominique, and chronicle the station’s role in fighting for the people of Haiti.  Jean Dominique was assassinated on April 3, 2000.  His widow and Radio Haiti partner, former UN Spokesperson Michele Montas, brought the Radio Haiti Records to the Rubenstein Library last year, and while it has its challenges – its primary language is Haitian Kreyol and its 3,420 analog tape recordings have spent the better of their lives in a mold-inducing tropical climate – it is that rare collection where value (historical, cultural, human) outweighs almost any conceivable obstacle to making it accessible.

To begin the process of digitizing the recordings, as a first step to transcription and translation, we have created a small pilot project that tests our capabilities and captures the kinds of numbers we need to evaluate the costs associated with preserving Radio Haiti in the long term.  We made the video below to demonstrate some of the basic considerations in approaching the preservation of this important collection.  For more information, check out the Preservation Underground blog, where Head of Conservation Beth Doyle discusses the process we used to clean the mold off the tapes.

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist

Bruno Foa’s Trip to Jerusalem

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 12:23

Portrait of Foa from the Bruno Foa Papers.

Bruno Foa (1905-1996) was an Italian-born, Jewish economist, lawyer, consultant, and professor. Educated in Italy as an economist and lawyer, Foa became Italy’s youngest full professor of economics at age 28. In 1937, he married Lisa Haimann, a refugee from Munich, and they moved to London in 1938. While in London, Foa worked for the British Broadcasting Company, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and guest lectured at the London School of Economics. In 1940, Foa moved his family to the United States. He began work at Princeton University on a Rockefeller Foundation Grant and later moved to Washington D.C., where he worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, the Office of Inter-American Affairs, the Bureau of Latin American Affairs and the Federal Reserve Board.

We have recently re-processed the Bruno Foa Papers in order to enhance their description and access for researchers as part of the Economists Papers Project here at the Rubenstein Library. The papers include interesting details about his many trips abroad to Italy, Somalia, Spain, and the newly-established country of Israel. It is an added bonus when a collection we acquired for its relevance to the history of economics ends up including materials on other topics too–like mid-twentieth-century travel writings.

Souvenir postcard collected by Foa during his trip to Jerusalem.

During his life, Foa was invited several times to guest lecture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His first trip was in 1946, just two years before Israel was declared a state. From his writings, Jerusalem seemed to be a city split between the struggles of the time and the echoes of the past. Foa writes, “Jerusalem is indeed an armed camp, and looks like a besieged place. Barbed wire–miles of it– is spread around all public buildings and throughout the city. Tanks and armored cars scout the streets day and night: one of them its Bren guns ready to fire, is permanently stationed at the center of Jaffa Road.” His letter then describes the resiliency of a people who have come to accept as normal daily bomb and landmine explosions, and the strain and tension developing between the Jewish and Arab populations.

But Foa also talks about the natural beauty of the city. From atop Mount Scopus, the view of the city seems to transcend the struggles going on below. “It is a stern view, since Jerusalem is built on stones (beautiful yellow stones) and is surrounded by rocky hills–yet it is a glorious view, when bathed by the warm Palestinian sunshine or the glory of the moon. There, on Mount Scopus, Titus and his legions stood, and from there laid siege to the city. There is the Valley of Final Judgement–as stern as death itself. On the other side, one can see the Jordan, the Dead Sea, the desert of Judaea and the mountains of Noab. Beauty, history and tragedy fill the air. It is a most unforgettable sight.” Bruno Foa’s writings allow us to take a step into the past and see Jerusalem as it stood nearly 70 years ago.

Post contributed by Vicki Eastman, a graduate student at Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy.

Heschel Highlights, Part 6

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 12:46

Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Voice on the Back of the Page

Anyone familiar with Abraham Joshua Heschel’s English writings has encountered the distinctive cadence of his sentences. From the early book The Earth is the Lord’s (1949) to his final work A Passion for Truth (1973), one can hear and feel the rhythm that we now all find so familiar. Reliant on evocative words, on short phrases strung together mostly through suggestions, his sentences pile steadily one atop another, compelled from within as if by their own heartbeat.

Heschel saved nearly every scrap of paper on which he wrote. From napkins and hotel stationary to JTS announcements and publisher’s proofs, often what we record in the database is only the “front” of the page—what appears to us to be a paper’s final use. But the other side, the crossed out side, is often just as lively, covered in sentence fragments, Talmudic quotations, half-written letters of thanks or condolence. Often these backsides record, as if by sheer happenstance, a couple of seconds of Heschel’s mind, a brief instance when a thought, a turn of phrase, caught him amid other actions and was hastily scribbled down.

“The Kotzker, on the other hand, was concerned with truth, being in distress {rather} that imagination being dormant. Somber and plaintive he had no patience with the playful or the rhapsodic.”

More often than not Heschel returned to these scraps, edited them, sounding after each change more rhythmically alike to the unhurried but morally tugging voice that characterize his finished prose.

“We live on the verge of mystery and ignore it. Instead of facing the abyss marvel, we are involved in analyzing reminiscences of old formulations. We take the world for granted, and forget that being is unbelievable. Stand still and behold! Speech is an aftermath.”

“There is {no} word in biblical Hebrew for doubt. Indeed just as the logic of science ; there are many words for wonder. Just as in dealing with judgment, our starting-point is doubt, {wonder is} our starting-point in dealing with reality. is wonder The biblical man never questions the reality of the world around him. He [unfinished].”

Though he wrote almost without ceasing, few of Heschel’s notes reveal autobiographical awareness. “I” was not a word he employed readily. Coming upon a personal reflection can feel momentous.

Entering the shul
I first relinquish all I have know.
I start all over again.
And the words niggun comes —
my lips have known silence
stillness of awe
And my stillness awakes
The niggun is {a sphere} far off my mind,
and yet I am all there.
My pride fades to bit by bit.
The niggun never ends.
Abruptness is something
I have never known.
A moment never dies
A song is never is but
a beginning of {one} infinity
of echo.]



But sometimes, too, there are the pages punctuated by sadness, when the search for God recedes behind the dark memory of all that Heschel, and Judaism, has lost.

“My people was burned to death in Poland. Almost all traces of its existence are thousand year history were wiped out. Since 1945 the country was rebuilt, the last remnants of its survivors driven out. No one misses mourns for us in Poland, no one seems to remember us in Poland.”

Post contributed by Samuel J. Kessler, intern for the Abraham Joshua Heschel processing project.

Clarissa Sligh: Jake in Transition

Mon, 03/10/2014 - 12:55

Sometimes in Technical Services, we get to work with the visual arts as they intersect with the Rubenstein Library’s mission of cultural documentation.  One such collection, acquired by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, is the Clarissa Sligh Papers. Sligh is a visual artist, writer, and lecturer. As a teenager, she was the lead plaintiff in a 1955 school desegregation case in Virginia which later inspired her book “It Wasn’t Little Rock”. After working in math and science with NASA and later in business, she began her career as an artist, using photographs, drawings, text, and personal stories to explore themes of transformation and social justice.

The Bingham Center began acquiring Sligh’s work in the 1990s as part of a collection of artists’ books by women. In 2011, we began the process of transferring her archive to Duke. One of the works represented in her papers is Jake in Transition, a series of 51 black and white photographs, some superimposed with text, documenting one man’s transition from female to male. The project explores issues of gender, identity, and physicality. Sligh revisited those themes in her book Wrongly Bodied Two, which juxtaposes Jake’s story with that of a female slave who escapes to the North by passing as a white man.

Sligh took the original “Jake” photographs between 1996 and 2000, a time when transgender issues were still largely ignored. Her work is particularly relevant now that the transgender rights movement has gone mainstream. This isn’t surprising for a woman who has been ahead of her time since at least 1955.

Post contributed by Megan Lewis, Technical Services Archivist for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Preserving a Cork-Covered Scrapbook

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 12:27

I’ll soon be meeting with Conservation staff to discuss the preservation issues surrounding a few collections I’ve cataloged recently, including this one, a scrapbook I felt I had to catalog before it absolutely fell to pieces.

It is likely that Marianne “Nan” Rothholz created this unique cork cover for her scrapbook that contains 69 letters, 22 V-mails, 6 postcards, and 37 black-and-white photographs.

Nan Rothholz began this scrapbook during World War II, when she served as a member of the National Jewish Welfare Board and the Baltimore United Service Organizations (USO). She and her family hosted servicemen, generally medical professionals stationed at Fort Meade, in their Baltimore home. She became especially close to and followed 5 of the men during the final years of the war in Europe, and to me this scrapbook represents her “filing cabinet” for their V-mail, letters, photographs, postcards, and clippings, rather than a traditional scrapbook.

Rothholz recorded personal details about each serviceman in ink, then pasted in their related material around it. The paper in the scrapbook is of astoundingly poor quality, and breaks into pieces as the pages are turned.

Our challenge here will be how to keep related material together yet preserve the individual items, all before these brittle pages crumble to bits. Conservation staff will advise me on this, and perhaps digitization will be considered to help preserve the relationships in material that Rothholz initiated. Both the National Jewish Welfare Board and the USO commended her on her work, and our work will honor her as well.

Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original Cataloger.

Happy Valentine’s Day, My Rapturous Codfish!

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 12:22

Image of Leon Simon, taken from London’s National Portrait Gallery.

As my student assistant, Sophia Durand, began the physical processing of the 131 letters in the Leon Simon collection (1915-1916, 1918), she noticed something intriguing. Leon Simon addressed each letter to his future wife, Esther Ellen Umanski, differently. Until they made official plans to marry, she was “My Dear Nellie.” But once the date was set, Simon became creative and effusive, his word choices sometimes questionable as endearments.

Romantics everywhere tend to be sugary in their pet phrases. Simon was no different, perhaps just more over-the-top. He addressed his letters to: My essence of honeycomb, My exquisite Peach Melba, My lump of sweetness, My peachiest apricot, My succulent meringue, My belovedest mimosa, My jujubious confection, My sweet Sugar plum(p).

As you can already tell, Simon was quite fond of food and cooking. Other highlights in the letters include My stewed apricot, My eversweet parsnip, My most succulent kipper, My pickled herring (You know how I love them!), My pickledest onion (=on’y ‘n  =only one), My own dumpling, My coo (k) ing dove, My rapturous codfish, My toasted crumpet, and–my personal favorite–My incandescent soup-tureen.

Simon wrote Nellie at least once a week. On October 12, 1915, he called her “My protoplasmic cherub.”

Occasionally, Simon sought to be reassuring about his odd turns of phrase. On October 20, 1915, he wrote to Nellie, who was studying German, “My most exquisite Stumpfenbach, (Don’t worry about the meaning of this; it is a term of endearment invented for the occasion & means nothing at all except that all recognized terms of endearment are hopelessly inadequate)…” A Duke German professor says that he was unwittingly referring to a city in Bavaria.

So, if on this Valentine’s Day your terms of affection seem stale, why not borrow one coined by Simon: My adorable whelk, My kitchy-kooish boo-woo, My jokaceous blue bottle, My bilingual Scaramouche, My unique joy, My tender flamingo, My early paradise, My copious ink-pot, My imperative necessity, My darlingpetangelanddelightallrolledintoone. Perhaps you and your loved one will then share in one of his closings, a “Quintessence of hugs & kisses ad lib.”


Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original Cataloger.

Jefferson Davis’s Hair Revisited

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 12:53

One of my favorite Rubenstein collections is the C.C. Clay Papers, which document the life and times of Clement Claiborne Clay and his family. The Clays lived in Alabama in the nineteenth century, and sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. In the war’s early years, C.C. Clay served as a Confederate States senator. His opposition to raising soldiers’ pay (it would have been too expensive!) led to his being voted out of office in 1863. Clay and Confederate States President Jefferson Davis were good friends, however — Clay was godfather to Davis’s son Joseph — and rather than send Clay back to his plantation, Davis sent him on a secret mission to Canada to spy, bribe, and generally foment rebellion. (Clay’s mission did not end up helping the C.S.A.)

Clay was in Canada from mid-1864 through early 1865. He returned to the South just in time for the Confederacy to surrender. President Lincoln was assassinated shortly after his return, and both Davis and Clay were arrested by the Federal government on suspicions of treason relating to Lincoln’s assassination. (Clay’s time in Canada looked extremely suspicious.) The men were imprisoned in Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Clay was held for about a year without being charged until finally his wife, Virginia Clay, convinced President Andrew Johnson to pardon him. (She was a cool lady. You can read her 1905 memoir here.) Davis was imprisoned until 1867 before finally being released on bail.

This is only a selected portion of the Davis hairball held in the Clay Papers.

What does all this backstory have to do with Jefferson Davis’s hair? Well, there are giant clumps of it in the Clay Papers, and for years we did not know why. The mystery behind the hair did not stop us from displaying it in a Perkins Library exhibit three years ago. The only clue was from an envelope, where Virginia Clay had written, “Hair of Jefferson Davis cut off in Fortress Monroe, given me by Mrs. Dr. Elva Cooper.”

Recently, in reading through the Clay Papers correspondence, I came across the letter that explains it all. Virginia Clay wrote to Elva Cooper in April 1866, days before receiving Johnson’s pardon for C.C. Clay, asking her to “do send the hair if possible as directed.” Later on in the letter, Virginia recounted the number of donations received toward Jefferson Davis’s bail, adding that “the hair will sell like wildfire + will be my contribution.”

It appears that the plan was for the clumps of hair to be sold to Davis supporters as souvenirs, raising money for his aid. This explanation makes a lot more sense than the various reasons we had thought up over the years. Hair tokens are not rare in manuscript collections, but the fact that the Clays had so much of it struck us as a little odd. Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. An annotation from Ada Sterling, the editor for Virginia’s memoir, offers this extra gem:

Even Davis’s contemporaries were not interested in purchasing locks of his hair! Sterling explained that as she helped write the memoir in the early 1900s, the hair was still lying in “‘mussy’ bundles, among Mrs. C’s things.”And so it now remains forever in the Rubenstein. Mystery solved!

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

Heschel Highlights, Part 5

Fri, 01/17/2014 - 14:25
The Wow! Factor

Welcome to the fifth post in a series documenting the processing of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

It’s no secret I have an affinity for oversize materials (see here).  And while the Abraham Joshua Heschel Collection only contains a modest number of oversize materials, those that are in the collection are proving to be quite extraordinary. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Dust jacket from first edition of Maimonides eine Biographie, 1935.

Completed in only 7 months, the book was Heschel’s first major work. He was 28 years old.

Poster, Opening of the Term at the Institute for Jewish Learning, London, 1940.

In 1939 Heschel received official confirmation from Julian Morgenstern, president of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, OH, of a position of a research fellow in Bible and Jewish Philosophy. Heschel left Warsaw for London, England to obtain an American visa for emigration to the United States. While in London, he founded the Institute for Jewish Learning to “introduce all ages and classes of Jew to the history and tradition of their forbears.”

“Antwort an Einstein” in Aufbau, 1940

Heschel’s article “Answer to Einstein” in the newspaper Aufbau (Reconstruction) which was a rebuttal to Albert Einstein’s paper “Science and Religion.” As a recent immigrant, this was an audacious and surprising move for Heschel.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Heschel Processing Archivist in Rubenstein Technical Services.

“No car, no money, no food…just me.”

Thu, 01/16/2014 - 12:06

In the mid 1980s, Duke history student Joseph Sinsheimer interviewed veterans of the fight for voting rights in early-1960s Mississippi. The generational distance between the interviews and the subject worked in Sinsheimer’s favor: his narrators had gained the perspective of years but many still had their youth, with memory intact, and were ready to talk at length of their experiences. The collection guide to these remarkable interviews is a roll call of Civil Rights Movement leadership in the deep South:  C.C. Bryant, Robert Moses, Lawrence Guyot, Willie Peacock, Hollis Watkins and others detail Mississippi’s struggle through stories of their involvement.

Andrew Young during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer, 1963. From the Joseph Sinsheimer Papers.

As we digitize the audiocassettes that Sinsheimer used to record the interviews, one story immediately stands out. Activist Sam Block’s retelling of how he came to be involved in the movement is a coming-of-age story informed by the death of Emmett Till and galvanized by a confrontation with a white customer at his uncle’s service station. His subsequent recruitment into the Movement via the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and his training at Highlander Folk School, were prologue to the courage Block demonstrated when he asked Robert Moses to drop him in Greenwood, Mississippi, with “no car, no money, no food…just me.”

Listen here: Sam Block interviewed by Joseph Sinsheimer

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist in the Technical Services Dept.