Israeli library offers glimpse of old Jewish life in Europe

Israeli library offers glimpse of old Jewish life in Europe
This undated photo provided by the Israel National Library, shows a document from Halberstadt, Germany, written in the 18th century. The library has begun digitizing communal ledgers of modern European Jewish communities, known as pinkasim. The documents, were used by European Jewish communities hundreds of years ago to keep track of financial transactions, political happenings, relations with non-Jewish government bodies, and even funny moments in the communities. (Israel National Library via AP)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s National Library has digitized a rare collection of communal ledgers from long-lost Jewish communities of Europe, offering the public a chance to study an era seen as a golden age of Jewish self-governance before the Holocaust.

The documents, known as pinkasim, were used by European Jewish communities hundreds of years ago to keep track of financial transactions, political happenings, relations with non-Jewish government bodies, and even funny moments.

Yoel Finkelman, curator of the library’s Judaica collection and manager of the project, said Tuesday that any Jewish community with a governing body had a pinkas.

He says that makes the ledgers “some of the most significant documents for understanding early modern Jewish European history.” He said that currently they also are some of the “least accessible.”