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President Herzog & Family Presents a Rare Volume of Talmud that Survived the Holocaust to Yad Vashem

17 April 2024

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is proud to announce the addition of a remarkable Holocaust-era artifact to the Holocaust History Museum's permanent exhibition.  The new addition is a volume of the Babylonian Talmud, a Pesachim Tractate, printed before the Holocaust and of which miraculously survived the atrocities and destruction of the events thereafter.  At the War's conclusion, this precious tome found its way into the hands of Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac Halevi Herzog, grandfather of the current President of Israel Isaac Herzog. Now, almost eighty years later, the Herzog family has graciously presented this sacred relic to Yad Vashem, where it will find its place among other revered artifacts, and continue to perpetuate the memory of those we lost.

Discovered amidst many other religious artifacts found in the Bürgerbräukeller Beer Hall in Munich in 1945, this volume of the Talmud testifies to the enduring struggle of the Jewish people to preserve their traditions, even amidst the darkest of times. In 1946, Eliyahu Dobkin entrusted this Talmud book to Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, who was the Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) and a prominent religious and spiritual leader during the pre-state period.

During the Holocaust, Rabbi Herzog acted to try and help rescue Jews from their doomed fate in Europe. In 1946, he traveled to Europe to return orphaned children hidden in monasteries and homes of non-Jews during the war. During these journeys, Rabbi Herzog met with many survivors to convince them to emigrate to Eretz Israel.

This volume of Talmud was passed from Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac Halevi Herzog to his son, the sixth President of Israel, Haim Herzog (Z"l) and his wife Ora.  Later on, the treasured Talmud was passed on to the family, who then decided that the proper place for the book's safekeeping was Yad Vashem.

The Herzog Family gathered at Yad Vashem for today's unique event. President Isaac Herzog spoke at this momentous occasion stating that:

"The Tractate's journey embodies, in many ways the story of a family, my family, but above all, it tells the story of a nation and the story of a people. A people who rose from ashes and built a home. Not just any home, but one with strong roots that run deeper than any disaster, and whose branches, though well-known, continue to grow, bear fruit, and climb ever higher. This is a story of destruction and rebirth; of mourning and rebuilding; of darkness and light; of redemption and freedom. A true and deep story that embodies the sentiment that the 'spirit of Israel never deceives.'"

On this occasion, Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan remarked:

"By including this rare artifact in the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem we can illuminate the vibrant tapestry of Jewish life in pre-Holocaust Europe and the subsequent horrors. The survival of this volume of ancient teachings amidst the devastation of the Holocaust holds profound significance. Its unveiling, just before Jews around the world gather at their Seder tables to recount the exodus from Egypt and our emergence as a nation, is especially poignant. As we fulfill the timeless commandment to remember the past, we affirm the enduring perseverance of the Jewish people throughout the ages, as the Haggadah states, 'each generation they stand up to destroy us'. Despite countless challenges, the Jewish people have endured. I am grateful to the President and his family for entrusting this item to Yad Vashem, allowing its significance to be shared with all the people of Israel."