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Alfred H. Moses at the 2020 Geneva Summit for Human Rights.

An Interview with Alfred H. Moses, Purchaser of Codex Sassoon



When Alfred H. Moses, the former U.S. Ambassador to Romania, saw a video about the Codex Sassoon, the oldest most-complete Hebrew Bible, he decided he would bid on the manuscript that was to be auctioned with the intent to donate it to ANU – The Museum of The Jewish People in Tel Aviv, where he is a board member.

Moses purchased the Codex Sassoon last week for a whopping $38.1 million and it will be housed at the museum in Tel Aviv.

Did Moses have a limit for what he would offer?

“We did have a limit, but we did not hit the limit,” Moses told The Jewish Press, but he did not wish to divulge what the limit was.

Sold at Sotheby’s New York, the manuscript fetched the largest amount of money of any book ever sold at any public auction.

Moses, who main the bid via phone said, it went well.

“I wasn’t the least bit nervous,” Moses said. “That it went for the highest price of any book ever is not really interesting to me. That’s not what I care about. I bought it because I know it’s of interest to the Jewish people.”

He said he did not want it to end up in a bank vault and is happy that it will be in its proper home.

Moses said he has always loves studying Chumash. Asked his favorite book in Tanach, he said there was one that stood out.

“I really like Kohelet,” he said, adding that there is a special beauty to it.

He said he still remembers his bar mitzvah from about 80 years ago.

“Yes, I read for the Torah, it was Bereishit, but I can’t sing at all,” he said. “I never had a great voice.”

Moses, who was an ambassador during President Clinton’s presidency, also headed UN Watch, an NGO that advocates for human rights and monitors UN’s activities.

Moses spoke out on a number of issues, including the right for women in Iran to not be beaten, have lashes or be put in jail for peacefully protesting. Moses, who was born in Baltimore and served in the Navy, recently stepped down from UN Watch.

The Codex Sassoon is believed to be more than 1,000 years old and is mostly complete, missing only about 8-10 percent. It is believed to have been written in present day Israel or Syria. Some pages of the Aleppo Codex, which is missing about 40% of its pages, mysteriously turned up in Brooklyn in 1988.

Sotheby’s Judaica experts, Sharon Liberman Mintz and Shaul Seidler-Feller, both told The Jewish Press that working on the Codex was the highlight of their careers and said there was great interest for many to get a glimpse of the book when it was shown.

There was apparently a curse that it should not be sold, but Moses said he doesn’t believe in such curses. He said he is happy to know people will visit Tel Aviv and see the Codex Sassoon.

“I know it will be of great interest to many, many people,” Moses said.

Moses, who was born in 1929 and lives in Washington D.C., said that globally there are many problems, from terrorism in Israel to global conflicts and increasing antisemitism.

What advice does he have, with all his eyes have seen?

Moses said his message is simple:

“Be brave, proud Jews. Be a good moral example.”

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Alan has written for many papers, including The Jewish Week, The Journal News, The New York Post, Tablet and others.