The international auction house Sotheby’s will offer an auction of the extensive
Judaica collection of Jewish philanthropists and founders of the Taglit-
Birthright program, Michael and Judy Steinhardt, in New York City in
The auction, titled “A Treasured Legacy: The Michael & Judy
Steinhardt Judaica Collection,” is comprised of some 400 lots of rare objects
that illustrate the sweep of Jewish history from antiquity through the 20th
century, across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
The objects, which
range in price from $400 to $6 million, represent different aspects of Jewish
life and the dual worlds of observance and cultural heritage, in both the home
and the synagogue.
“It’s the most important collection of Judaica to come
to the market in 50 years so, it’s a really major moment for both us and for
them and it’s a huge honor for Sotheby’s to offer it for sale,” the head of
business development of Sotheby’s in Europe, Saul Ingram told The Jerusalem Post
“What’s unique about this collection is that it’s the best
of it’s kind and it represents Jewish communities from all over the world,” he
“So if you are from Spain, if you are from Africa or wherever,
there are pieces in the collection that you can buy that are a part of your
personal Jewish heritage, which I think is what makes it really
“We are definitely seeing a growth in this connection back to
Judaism,” he continued.
Ingram, who is part of the team organizing the
auction, was on a visit in Israel this week, along with his colleague, Russian
paintings specialist at Sotheby’s in New York, Sonia Bekkerman.
explained that Sotheby’s has worked with Michael and Judy Steinhardt, who are
known to be important art collectors, for many years.
devoted their lives to education,” Bekkerman explained, “They are all about the
younger generation, so it’s beautiful to pass on this Judaica collection, this
Jewish identity, to the next generation. It’s something that they are very
passionate about doing.”
The managing director at Sotheby’s Israel, Sigal
Mordechai, explained that the pieces of the collection are not only aimed at art
collectors, but also at individuals who wish to start a collection, or simply
purchase a particular object. In general, she said, buyers tend to purchase
pieces which are closely related to their own family’s heritage.
could create a whole varied collection of objects, and paintings, manuscripts
and books or you can also create a collection that you can actually use, because
Jewish objects are for the holidays and for daily life,” Mordechai said, “Most
of them are functional objects.
So you could buy them, not necessarily if
you are a serious collector, you could buy them for personal use, to enjoy
“It may be a cliche, but I think you really do connect to your
family’s history through these objects,” she continued.
“This idea of use
is very important,” Bekkerman added, “The idea that people can actually buy
these objects, not at exorbitant prices, and use them in their home and really
continue the Jewish heritage, I think is essential to this
Ingram also explained that the fact that the collection
belongs to the Steinhardts makes it more appealing to buyers, as Sotheby’s has
seen more excitement over this auction than any over any other one the company
had ever organized in the past.
“The Steinhardt name is magical, so to
have a piece of something that belonged to the Steinhardts and was put together
so carefully, it’s an amazing opportunity,” he said.
agreed that the name gives the collection an added value: “When you think of
Steinhardt and you think of Birthright,” she said. “You imagine the hundreds of
thousands of young people that this organization sent to Israel and these young
people who, for the first time, are reclaiming their Jewish
“Its a beautiful concept to consider that now that they are a
little bit older, they are now coming to look at these Judaica objects,
everything falls into place.”
The Steinhardt collection’s most expensive
piece is the Frankfurt Mishne Torah, from the period between 1457 and 1465, one
of the finest illuminated Hebrew manuscripts ever created and estimated at $4m.
The text, authored by Rabbi Moshe Maimonides, the supreme Jewish
writer and philosopher of the Middle Ages, is a synthesis of Jewish law, and
arguably the most important medieval Hebrew work of any kind.
manuscript, with its superbly-penned text and magnificent series of
illustrations, was originally conceived in two volumes.
The first part is
now in the Vatican, while the second will be auctioned in New York.
began assembling this collection more than 30 years ago. I found it inspiring to
be close to precious objects of Jewish history and culture,” Michael Steinhardt
said in a statement.
“Now, at 72, it is time for the collection to be
passed on to a new generation, in the hopes that it will encourage them in turn
to discover a rich Jewish heritage and the joy of owning a piece of their past,”
“We are all specialists, we are all in this business because we
love objects and we can’t get enough of this collection, it is truly
extraordinary,” Bekkerman said.
Highlights from the collection – 24
pieces – will travel to Moscow where it is to be exhibited next week, and will
also be presented in Jerusalem at the end of March, before returning to New
York. The pieces will then be formally displayed in an exhibition a few days
before the auction, which will take place on April 29.