A Jewish almanac

In the late seventeenth century, Jewish scholars at last joined the ranks of the Hebraists who had flourished in the English universities since the growth of biblical philology surrounding bible translation in the sixteenth century. Isaac Abendana, a Sephardi who immigrated to England from Spain, via Hamburg, in 1662, taught Hebrew at Oxford and Cambridge, where he undertook his greatest work, a Latin translation of the Mishnah that was the first of its kind. At Oxford, he developed the ‘Oxford diary’, a location-specific calendar of the type that remains in use to this day. Published almanac-style, it also included a wealth of information on Jewish culture and religion, including the correspondence between Christian and Jewish calendars. In this ‘Kalendar’, where a popular genre met learned discourse, the overdue arrival of Jewish contributions offered long-neglected bodies of knowledge to a wide audience. Abendana’s almanacs at once point to the influence of Reformation-era Hebraist study on everyday life, and throw into relief the long history of absence enforced by centuries of rejection of Jewish life from English culture. They ask that we remember what is missing from cultural models promulgated by learned Christians, the State church, and the popular press. BW

Isaac Abendana, The Jewish kalendar (Oxford: 1699).

CUL: Adv.E.38.15

Further Reading

I. Abrahams, ‘Isaac Abendana’s Cambridge Mishnah and Oxford Calendars’, Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 8 (1915-17), pp. 97-121.

David S. Katz, ‘The Abendana Brothers and the Christian Hebraists of Seventeenth-Century England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 40 (1989), pp. 28-52.

Achsah Guibbory, Christian Identity, Jews, and Israel in 17th-Century England (Oxford, 2010).

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