Like the Jews whose Passover story it tells, the 14th century Wolf Haggadah has endured many hardships, moving around Europe over the centuries and even falling into Nazi hands. But the uniquely illustrated Sephardic Haggdah has survived, and a virtual computerized version of it will soon be on display at the National Library of Israel.
The Wolf Haggadah is 36 parchment pages long and was written in the late 1300s by Yakov Ben Shlomo, a physician and scholar from Avignon, in the Provence region of southeastern France.
“Writing the Haggadah was part of the cultural movement whose goal was to resist the philosophical beliefs thriving in Provence,” said Dr. Aviad Stolman, senior curator of Judaism in the National Library of Israel.
The Haggadah integrates Jewish laws and practices then current in France. In 1889, German Jewish Judaica collector Albert Wolf purchased the Haggadah at a public auction in Germany, and it became known as the Wolf Haggadah. In 1907, Wolf gave the Haggadah to Berlin’s Jewish community. In 1938 it was confiscated by the Nazis and moved to Poland, where it was recovered by Soviet forces. In 1948, it was sent to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. It disappeared in 1984 and reappeared at a public auction in 1989 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The World Jewish Congress issued a lawsuit against the auctioneers which led the Haggadah to be returned to the Polish Embassy in Switzerland, and 15 years ago it finally came to rest when it was presented to the National Library in Jerusalem.