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Codex Sassoon acquired for ANU Museum of the Jewish People for $38.1 million



(JTA) – A 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible became the most expensive book ever sold Wednesday when it drew a price of $38.1 million at auction at Sotheby’s in New York City.

The buyer of the item, known as the Codex Sassoon, was revealed to be the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. The museum said Alfred Moses, a former U.S. ambassador to Romania, and his family provided the funds for the purchase.

The manuscript is the world’s oldest nearly complete copy of the Hebrew Bible. It was handwritten roughly 1,100 years ago on 792 pages of sheepskin, includes all 24 books of the Bible and is missing only about eight pages. Its writing and layout recall those of Torah scrolls read in synagogue.

The seller, Swiss financier and collector Jacqui Safra, had owned the volume since 1989. Speculation about where the book would end up led to anxiety that it might be sold to a private collector rather than a public institution that could put it on display.

Those doubts were put to rest when the museum, formerly the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora and also known as Anu, said the book would be part of its core exhibition.

“The Hebrew Bible is the most influential book in history and constitutes the bedrock of Western civilization. I rejoice in knowing it belongs to the Jewish people,” Moses said in a statement. “It was my mission, realizing the historic significance of Codex Sassoon, to see that it resides in a place with global access to all people.”

Just a handful of buyers competed for the book — in person at Sotheby’s and by phone — and the auction took less than six minutes. Ahead of the auction, Sotheby’s estimated that the item would sell for anywhere from $30 million to $50 million. The “gavel price” was $33.5 million, but with fees and premiums, the final price tag reached $38.1 million.

Since no book or historical document quite like it has been sold at auction for decades, the Codex Sassoon has earned comparisons to other foundational texts of civilization that have also commanded tens of millions of dollars. A copy of the first printing of the U.S. Constitution’s final text sold for $43.2 million in 2021. The Codex Leicester, a journal with writings by Leonardo Da Vinci, fetched $30.8 million in 1994. And a copy of the Magna Carta sold for $21.1 million in 2007.

“This is one of the rarest, unique, uniting documents that ever existed,” Irina Nevzlin, chair of Anu’s board of directors, told JTA. “For us to have it in the museum where it will be available for all those millions of people — this is something that can strengthen our roots and our identity, because it’s something eternal.”

She added, “We are the right home for it for so many reasons. Also for the fact that we’re based in Israel.”

The in-person auction attracted a standing-room-only crowd of onlookers, many of whom said they felt compelled to witness a transaction of immense significance in Jewish tradition.

“This is a historic moment,” said Elinatan Kupferberg, a scholar and writer from Lakewood, New Jersey. “This is the oldest Torah in existence. Whoever is going to own it next is going to change history.”

Kupferberg, who said his most precious books were those containing the handwritten notes of great rabbis, said he sometimes regrets when Jewish texts are bought by collectors because they will not be used in everyday study. Not so, he said, with this item.

“It doesn’t make me feel sad to see it behind glass because it was meant to be a reference work,” he said.

Sandra Gogel, who was in town from Paris, said she had hoped the Codex Sassoon would draw a higher price, and was surprised that bidding had closed so quickly. “33.5 is nothing to scoff at, but 50 would have been nice,” she said.

Gogel said she had traveled to London to see the Codex when it was on display there and was relieved that the book will end up on public display.

“I went to London to see it because I thought I might not see it again,” she said. She added, “I’m happy it will be Israel where everyone can see it… Everyone goes to Tel Aviv.”

The post Codex Sassoon acquired for ANU Museum of the Jewish People for $38.1 million appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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