LONDON — A British academic has discovered a rare, handwritten translation of a siddur, or prayer book, in a collection in a Manchester library — and clues in the volume point to a little-known presence of Jews in 17th-century England.
In a presentation recently at the Rylands Library, Dr. Aron Sterk revealed the results of nearly a year and a half of research since he undertook cataloging one Jewish community leader’s 19th-20th century manuscript and book collection in February 2015.
Sterk’s prize discovery is a double puzzle. It is an English translation of a Spanish version of the Hebrew siddur. And, because of what it does not contain, he believes that it was almost certainly used by a woman as her daily prayer book — and that woman may even have been a convert to Judaism.
Sterk, who earned a doctorate in Jewish studies at Manchester University and is now a researcher at the University of Lincoln, was going through papers at Manchester University’s John Rylands Library. The neo-Gothic building, which opened to the public in 1900, holds a world-class collection, ranging from medieval Christian manuscripts to the renowned Rylands Haggadah, believed to have been written in mid-14th century Catalonia.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.