May 09, 2016

Press Release

Museum of the Bible Displays World's Oldest Jewish Prayerbook, 12th Century Hebrew Bible Samaritan Scroll, First Edition Mishnah With RamBam and More At Israeli Embassy's Annual Christian Solidarity Event

Museum of the Bible displayed six rare artifacts from their collection to guests of the Israeli Assembly’s annual Christian Solidarity Event and loaned a copy of what is likely the world’s oldest complete Hebrew prayerbook to the Israeli Embassy on Friday. The 430,000-square-foot Museum of the Bible, now under construction blocks from the U.S. Capitol and National Mall, will open its doors in late 2017. Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers offered the event’s opening prayer and presented a duplicate of one of the artifacts displayed at the event - a 9th century codex prayerbook that pre-dates Amram and Sa’adia Gaons’ standardizing of the Siddur - to Ambassador Ron Dermer for long-term display in his office.


“Our mission is to make the Bible accessible to everyone through a diverse collection of artifacts like those exhibited today at the Israeli Embassy,” said Cary Summers, President of Museum of the Bible. “We are proud to present Ambassador Dermer with a copy of a 9th century prayerbook that will be displayed for future guests of the Embassy, and we look forward to sharing our larger collection with visitors to Washington, D.C. when Museum of the Bible opens next year.”


"I want to thank you very much," said Ambassador Ron Dermer upon receiving the prayerbook. "I'm looking through it, and it's our language, it's the language we speak today. We were a people left for dead, a language that was dead, and we brought back to life this language that was only preserved in prayer. This will have a place in my office, for everyone to remember that for Jewish people anywhere in the world, when they come to Israel they're coming home."


Guests at the Embassy’s Christian Solidarity Event enjoyed an exhibit of six of Museum of the Bible’s rarest artifacts, including the 9th century codex prayerbook. The artifacts on display included:


The Oldest Complete Jewish Prayer Book: This 9th century codex is the earliest example of a Siddur-like manuscript. It pre-dates Amram and Sa’adia Gaons’ standardizing of the prayer book and contains various liturgical texts, including an allegorical poem of Song of Songs, Psalms, daily prayers, and a Passover Seder section that was intentionally written upside down. It is likely the oldest complete Hebrew codex known to exist.


The Valmadonna Codex: Valmadonna Codex I, a Hebrew Bible Pentateuch dated to 1189, is the only surviving Hebrew book written in twelfth-century England, as well as the only known Hebrew book that can be dated to a time before the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. As one of the most important surviving artifacts of the medieval English Jewish community, the Valmadonna Codex was viewed by Queen Elizabeth II at a multi-faith event in honor of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.


The 12th Century Samaritan Scroll: For over 2,500 years the Samaritans, an ancient Semitic people, have venerated the Torah and used Torah scrolls in liturgical worship. The Samaritan Pentateuch contains the text of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, written in Samaritan script. This scroll, attributed to Scribe Shalmah Ben Abraham by Professor Stefan Schorch of Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, may have been written in 1166, and is one of the four earliest surviving examples of this biblical tradition.
The 13th Century Ashkenazic Torah Scroll: This Sefer Torah is one of only a handful of Torahs in scroll form to have survived from the medieval period. Most have survived in codex form. Extensive research using multi-spectral imaging and analysis of the text and layout of the scroll attributes it to a thirteenth-century Ashkenazic source, whose centers were located in England, Germany, and Northern France.
The Papal Bull: This Papal Bull, issued by Sixtus V, represents a change in Church and Jewish relations in Rome. With Jewish persecution, the Bubonic Plague, and the Spanish Inquisition still fresh in the minds of older Jewish generations, this statement represents a positive moment in history when the Church stepped out against anti-Semitism and promoted rights for Jews in Rome.
First Edition Mishnah with Commentary from Rambam: This first edition printing of the entire Mishnah with Rambam’s Commentary on the Mishnah was printed by Joshua Solomon Soncino, an important Jewish printer in Italy, on May 8, 1492. The Mishnah is a vital gathering of Oral Law. Here it was paired with Maimonides’ Commentary on the Mishnah, the first of his major works.


About Museum of the Bible
Museum of the Bible is an innovative educational institution that invites all people to engage with the Bible through museum exhibits and scholarly pursuits, including artifact research, education initiatives and an international museum opening late 2017 in Washington, D.C. The 430,000-square-foot, $400 million Museum of the Bible, dedicated to the impact, history and narrative of the Bible, will be located three blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Museum of the Bible’s cafe will also offer Glatt Kosher dining options for any visitors and residents of Washington who keep kosher.