New documentary will tell the tale of medieval Spanish Jewish printer

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New documentary will tell the tale of medieval Spanish Jewish printer

Foundation for Jewish Heritage championing efforts to film life story of 15th century Eliezer Alantansi from former Jewish quarter of Hijar

The documentary team and members of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage at the Bodleian  Library, Oxford. Pic: Foundation for Jewish Heritage
The documentary team and members of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Pic: Foundation for Jewish Heritage

An international Jewish heritage charity is championing efforts to film a documentary on the life of a pioneering Hebrew printer.

The Foundation for Jewish Heritage has been supporting research into Eliezer Alantansi, who lived in late 15th century Spain.

The documentary covers what would have been the last few years of the Jewish community there and Alantansi’s time in the former Jewish quarter of Hijar. It is likely he would have been a member of the city’s medieval synagogue, one of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage’s major preservation projects.

The film’s director Jose Angel Guimera, together with the Foundation’s Spanish colleague Lucia Conte Aguilar and chief executive Michael Mail, recently visited The Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Michael Mail, right with Lucia Conte Aguilar

They met with experts in Hebrew manuscripts to learn more about Eliezer Alantansi and to examine the books held in its collection. All the footage from the visit was recorded and will ultimately feature in the film.

Hijar synagogue, Spain. Pic: Foundation for Jewish Heritage

Speaking exclusively to Jewish News, Michael Mail said: “There are very few synagogue buildings that survived from the medieval period and the Foundation is delighted to be involved in preserving and re-imagining the synagogue in Hijar and as part of that, bringing to the fore the stories of some of the personalities who were part of that community. The story of Eliezer Alantansi is remarkable and one we are keen is brought to a wider audience.”

As a result of the interest, attention is once again being paid to the former synagogue building in Hijar which represents the only example of a medieval synagogue still extant in Aragon.

With the expulsion of the Jewish community in 1492, it was taken over by the Church, becoming the Church of San Anton de Hijar.

Works by Eliezer Alantansi. Pic: Foundation for Jewish Heritage

The Foundation has been developing a strategy to recover the heritage of around 30 former Jewish quarters in the region and is supporting efforts to preserve the Hijar site with the ultimate aim of creating a Sephardi heritage centre.

Alantansi was noted for producing Hebrew bibles and commentaries, and was the first Hebrew printer to use a printer’s mark, in his case a lion rampant.Today, 58 of his publications survive and can be found in leading libraries across the globe.

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