A rare Megila, or Scroll of Esther, that was written in the 19th century in the Azores – an archipelago 1,500 km. from Portugal that was once home to a small community of persecuted Jews – has been digitized for the first time by the National Library of Israel in time for Purim.
The National Library’s Zack Rothbart said the text was purchased from the Valmadonna Trust Library, considered among the finest private collections of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world.
According to Rothbart, the text measures just 12.7 cm. in height and was dedicated to David Sabach (pronounced Sabbath), a well-known member of the Azorean Jewish community who was eulogized for his considerable Torah knowledge.
“Jews fleeing persecution fled to the islands in the 16th and 17th centuries, though left no known written record of their Jewish lives or practices,” Rothbart said on Monday. “The first written record we have of Jewish life on the islands comes with the arrival of Moroccan Jews in 1818. By the mid-19th century, the Azorean Jewish population was about 250, most of them living in Ponta Delgada, on Sao Miguel Island.”
The historic Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue in Ponta Delgada was recently renovated and converted into a museum about the history of Jewish life in the Azores.
Rothbart said the digitization of the Azores Megila, which can be viewed online
, is part of the National Library of Israel’s current digitization and renewal initiative to give greater access to Jewish history throughout the world.
“This includes a range of educational, cultural and digital initiatives,” he added.
Founded in Jerusalem in 1892, the National Library of Israel is home to the intellectual and cultural treasures of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and its region throughout the ages.