Photo Credit: Ardon_Bar-Hama
Shabazi manuscript.

The National Library of Israel (NLI) last week revealed the generous contribution of the world’s most extensive assembly of 60,000 Yemenite Jewish manuscripts and fragments, endowed by the family of the late Yehuda Levi Nahum.

On Thursday, January 18, the 9th of Shevat, the Nahum family formally presented this remarkable collection to the library. This date holds particular significance as it marks the anniversary of the passing of the eminent 17th-century Yemenite poet and rabbi, Shalom Shabazi.


Beyond its impressive size, the collection boasts notable items, including Judeo-Yemenite renditions of works by Rambam, and Rabbi Yihya Saleh (Maharitz), along with antique ketubot. Further discoveries are anticipated as the collection undergoes exploration.

Nahum collection folders. / Ardon_Bar-Hama

Yehuda Levi Nahum (1915-1998) was born in Sana’a, Yemen, and in 1929, at the age of 14, immigrated to Israel. He settled in Jerusalem and later moved to Tel Aviv. Known as “Yuda” Nahum, he earned his livelihood as a butcher but dedicated the majority of his free time and energy to the accumulation of Yemenite manuscripts.

Over a span of six decades, from the early 1940s until his passing, Nahum achieved the remarkable feat of assembling the world’s most extensive collection of Yemenite-Jewish manuscripts. This unparalleled collection included hundreds of complete works and thousands of fragments, ranging from ancient to modern.

The collection consists of some 45,000 manuscripts and legible fragments; and some 15,000 fragments extracted from book covers or removed from genizot. The most important, complete manuscripts in the collection were cataloged by the Ben-Zvi Institute some 20 years ago. About 70% of the collection was scanned and added to the Friedberg Genizah Project (FGP) digital preservation project.

“This important collection is a transformative addition to the library’s documentation of Yemenite-Jewish heritage that will enrich scholarship in this field for years to come,” said Dr. Chaim Neria, Curator of the Haim and Hanna Solomon Judaica Collection at the National Library of Israel. “The library is dedicated to expanding its collections, and making these materials as widely available as possible. We are enormously grateful to the children of Yehuda Levi Nahum z”l for their generous donation that helps us to further this goal.”


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