On March 12, 2014, Kestenbaum & Company held an auction of fine Judaica. The results are not in yet.
Highlights include a manuscript page from Flavius Josephus’s “De Antiquitate Judaica.” It was translated by Rufinus Aquileiensis in October of 1499. Est: $4000 – $6000.
There are two ketubas, or marriage contracts: The first was written in Judeo-Persian, a language using Hebrew letters, which was spoken by the Jews of the former Persian Empire. c. 1878. Estimate: $2000 – $2500.
The second was printed for the Jews of Singapore in 1906. They migrated there from Baghdad in 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading post for the East India Company. The ketubah has Asian lotus flowers on the bottom, which are a Buddhist symbol of love and long life, and perhaps an indication of assimilation. Also, as Singapore was then under British rule, King George V also signed it. Estimate: $4000 – $6000
A pair of Torah finials made in Palestine, c. 1900, with silver filigree, dangling pendants, and turquoise cabochons. Estimate: $4000 – $6000.
From the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem comes a silver filigree bracelet. The three central panels portray holy sites in the Land of Israel: The Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb, and the Tower of David. Estimate: $800 – $1000.
Three contemporary brooches portray three Jewish heroines: Ruth Judith, and Shulamith. Estimate: $600 – $800.
However, the prize of this auction was Y. Chaskelson’s contemporary Torah, which is the smallest Torah in the world. The scroll, made out of vellum, is 2 inches high, while the text is 1 5/8 inches. Chaskelson was a silversmith prodigy. He is also is the grandson of holocaust survivors, “My life is to preserve and recapture in silver that which was destroyed and will never return.”
The Torah ark also doubles as a reading desk. It is decorated with the two lions-rampant protecting a plaque with the blessings said before the Saturday morning weekly reading, or parsha. In the center, there is a large magnifying glass to make reading easier. Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000.
The three major branches of the Jewish people (Ashkenazim (Europe), Sephardim (Spain), and Mizrahim (North Africa)) made jewelry to adorn the Torah. The Chaskelson Torah may be regarded as a piece of jewelry in itself. In Yemen, Morocco, and Spain, elaborate wedding jewelry was made as well, including hamsas known as Hands of Miriam. As we see in the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, young artists are also expanding the definition of Jewish jewelry to include the decorative arts.