Monday, July 12, 2010

Something from Chaim Berlin's past they'd no doubt find embarrassing*

What follows is the coolest thing I've seen in some time, and I'm deeply indebted to Fred for finding it and putting it up on his blog. It is a Passover Haggadah, distributed by Yeshivat Chaim Berlin in 1945 and 1958 (and perhaps the intervening years too.)

* Headline aside, I really don't know if the Yeshiva, as a whole, would be embarrassed to see this online. Maybe yes. Maybe no. More after the jump.
Details I wish to point out:

:: Several WOMEN  are listed among the Board of Directors. Though as Fred points out, its impossible to know what this Board actually governed, its still noteworthy by the standards of 2010 that the Yeshiva was not shy at least about pretending that women made up their executive leadership.

:: In 1945, the Rosh Yeshiva is given no special prominence. By 1958 he's listed at the top of the page, but in both editions he is merely the "president of the faculty" and his English name is given. Today, a yeshiva like Chaim Berlin would usually style their leader as "HaRav" if not "Harav Hagaon".

:: The quality of the writing is quite good. None of the neologisms and solecisms that plague present-day Yeshiva writing are evident.

:: As you will see, the Yeshiva has made itself the hero of the Pesach story. In the gloss, the Yeshiva's students are represented by the symbolic foods on the Seder plate. I can't imagine any institution being so vain today; more evidence of how styles and standards change. Likewise:

- In one photograph a boy in a plaid shirt is shown sitting in the Mesivta library. Today, the boy in plaid would be airbrushed out, and a photo from the Bes Medrash would be used instead.

- A shot of the dining room clearly shows men in white hats, and no beards are evident.

- The commentary brags about how the Yeshiva produces outstanding American citizens, who have received a "top" secular education

-- As early as 1945(!) the author of this commentary believed that America was "the new Torah home" and home to Israel's "cultural and spiritual treasures".



Here is the cover:

Some interesting excerpts:

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