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A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 3

In the first 2 parts of this series we wrote about seforim, kisvey yad (manuscripts) and letters. Here I’ll mention some of the ceremonial and fine arts that were also auctioned off.

The items commanding the highest prices in the Ceremonial Art category were:

On the left:

Finished maquette. Height 7.5″

Accompanied by: Sketched design, drawn and signed by Wolpert, dated 2/5/73.

Ludwig Wolpert (1900-81) was a Bauhaus trained craftsman and designer who later founded and directed the Toby Pascher Workshop at the Jewish Museum, New York.

It sold for $2,750.00.

At center:

Of classic form, marked on bottom. 19.5 by 14.5 inches


It went for $8,000.00

On the right:

Of ovalform, engraved with name of God on each side, set within shield of leafy clusters. Marked with town “Alessandria.” 4×3 inches


It sold for $5,000.00

The two highest selling items in the Fine Arts category were:

Printed Kethubah, surrounded by gouache borders. Signed “Ze’ev Raban, Jerusalem” in English and Hebrew. 20.5 by 13 inches.

Jerusalem, circa 1940’s

This marriage contract, written in English and Hebrew is set in traditional architectural inspired border. Raban’s kethubah design is comprided of a range oof biblical motifs. At the base is a Jerusalem cityscape, flanked by columns set on resting lions and a biblical passage. The text is bordered on each side by twelve cells depicting the twelve tribes (right) and similarly, the twelve months and corresponding zodiacal signs of the Jewish year (left).

A grapevine and pomegranate design surround a central Boblical medallion appropriately depicting Eliezer – the Bible’s first “matchmaker” alongside the young Rebbeca.

It commanded $6,000.00

A photograph by Roman Vishniac, The Scholar, sold for $3,750.00. As a child of Poilishe Holocaust survivors, as someone who met and spoke with Mr. Vishniac a”h at length, as a photographer myself, this gelatin print – signed by the artist – in a 12 by 10’5 inch format – as well as many of his other shots of a tragically wiped out world, brings me closer to my parents’ roots. The facial expressions of Vishniac’s subjects, the city or village foreground and background bring those moments, those subjects back to life, even if only for a fleeting moment… One can almost hear the street noise, see the movement, hear the subjects’ conversations, read their thoughts….

Among the many items in this auction, we found the well known classic texts and the not so so well known, controversial ones like Azariah de Rossi‘s Me’or Eynaim, lexicons, grammars and more. Alongside them you could find the first Yiddish translations of such works as Onkel Tom’s Kebin (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Karl MarxDos Kapital – Kritik fun der Politischer Ekonomye (Das Kapital), Charles Darwin‘s Di Opshtamung fun Mentshen un der Oysklaib Beshayces tzu Geshlect (On The Origin of Species), or Baruch Spinoza‘s Di Etik (Ethics, the main work that caused Spinoza’s excommunication by the Rabbis of his community).

Not only works that had been considered infamous or quasi-infamous, in its day, were among the auctioned lots, but emotional, heart breaking, memoirs were represented as well… Mendel  Beilis‘ (the real life subject of Bernard Malamud‘s The Fixer) first edition of his Di Geschichte fun Meyne Leyden (The Story of My Sufferings), printed in 1925 with a portrait and autograph by the author. Beilis was the victim of a vicious blood libel charge that brought world condemnation of Czarist Russia’s justice system. He was acquitted on October 28th, 1913.

This auction was, for me, truly a journey into history! It afforded me a glimpse into what had been our religious, cultural and artistic life of the past, while helping me understand why in spite of all, in spite of every foe – past or present – our future as Jews is well assured!



The Making of a Corporate Chef

Chef David Kolotkin is no stranger to these pages, but every time he reveals more and more about the Chef’s art. This time I went with him to Manhattan’s Union Square Farmers’ Market.

Chef David Kolotkin looking at mushroom varieties

We looked at tomatoes, cucumbers and some interesting varieties of mushrooms as the Chef explained about their flavor nuances, how the various types differed from each other. Next we turned to stalls carrying mesclun, arugula, and a few other salad greens. I really got an education today! Before we left the Chef picked up about four pounds of fresh Jerusalem artichokes for The Prime Grill.

But who is David Kolotkin? What makes him tick? He was barely in his teens when his interest in cooking first manifested itself. His mother had taken him to a restaurant where the food was prepared table-side. David watched fascinated and decided right there and then that one day he too would join that profession.

After high school he attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America from 1991 t0 1993, he then went on to apprentice at the legendary Club 21Club 21 was a favorite meeting place for many of the rich, the famous, powerful politicians and entertainers. After a while he resumed studies at the CIA and returned to Club 21 for another 3 years.

Leaving Club 21, he became sous chef for the Restaurant Associates operated, very exclusive, Trustees Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From there he went on to to become sous chef at Windows on the World, which occupied the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower at the World Trade Center.

After 9/11 he landed at The Prime Grill (60 East 49th Street; New York, NY 10017; 212.692.9292). He left in 2005 for his own venture in Miami, it didn’t work out and on his return to New York he worked for famed restaurateur Kenneth Uretsky, whom he knew from his RA days. Mr. Uretsky hired him for his Butterfield 81 restaurant. In 2007 he went back to The Prime Grill. Since then while still primarily at The Prime Grill he went on to became Corporate Chef for Joey Allaham’s restaurant ventures, including Solo and soon to open up Prime Ko, an upscale Japanese steakhouse.

Unlike others in his profession, Chef David is no prima donna, he puts on no airs, is well aware of his self worth without any need to toot it around. He’s totally dedicated to his profession and the people at his restaurants. Is it any wonder that he rose in the ranks?


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