Auction 88 - Part I - Books, Manuscripts, Rabbinical Letters, Ceremonial Art

Pair of Torah Finials – Algeria, 19th Century – Avraham son of R. Nissim Touboul

Opening: $4,000

Pair of Torah finials. Algeria (possibly made in Morocco), [19th century].
Silver, cast, pierced and engraved (marked with French hallmarks: Minerva's head; initials JS within tiny diamond – maker's or assayer's mark); gilt; rhinestones.
Large, impressive pair of finials. Hexagonal, openwork body, in a foliate design, with bell-hung openings and red rhinestones. The upper part of the finials is shaped like a crown, topped with a Star of David. Tall, hexagonal staves. Each finial is hung with altogether 18 engraved and marked bells.
An identical dedication is engraved on both staves: "Avraham son of R. Nissim Touboul". This may be Avraham Touboul of Oran, Algeria (1892-1957), who donated an elaborate French shield to a synagogue (see previous item), along with these finials. The dedication appears to have been added at a later point.
This type of North African finials (similar finials usually originate from Spanish Morocco) was influenced by the design of Italian, tower-shaped finials (Livorno), and well reflects the close connection between the European communities – and Italy in particular – and Algerian Jewry. A similar pair of finials is kept in the Jewish Museum in New York, originating from the Etz Chaim synagogue in Gibraltar, and serves as an early sample (or perhaps even the first) of this type in North Africa (created in London, 1801/2). Other finials are documented in the catalog From the Remotest West, Ritual Articles from Synagogues in Spanish Morocco (see below).
Height: 42.5 cm. Overall very good condition. Lacking five bells. One bell replaced.
1. Rafi Grafman, Crowning Glory, Silver, New York Torah Ornaments of the Jewish Museum (New York, 1996), item 364.
2. Rafi Grafman (ed.), 50 Rimonim: A Selection of Torah Finials from a European Family Collection. Exhibition Catalogue of the Tel Aviv University, (The Judaica Museum, The Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center, 1998), item 23.
3. Nitza Behrouzi, From the Remotest West. Ritual Articles from Synagogues in Spanish Morocco (The Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, 1989), items 1a-1f.

Ceremonial Objects from the Collection of an Algerian Family

Algerian Jewry, one of the oldest and largest Jewish communities in Islamic countries, numbered at its peak some 130,000 Jews, most of whom left when Algeria gained its independence in 1962. The vast majority of Algerian Jews immigrated to France, while others moved to Israel.

Items 288-296 originate from the private collection of a rabbinic family in Western Algeria. Some of the items were found abandoned in Algerian synagogues following the mass exodus of its Jews, and were collected by the members of this family, whose descendants immigrated to France, and later to Israel.

Silver Hallmarks in French Algeria
Algeria, which was under French control from 1830 to 1962, became subject to French laws of silver crafting and silver hallmarks from 1838 (see: Tardy, pp. 29-30; 197-200).
Some of the silver items in the present collection bear French hallmarks, which for the most part appear to have been stamped by Algerian silversmiths or assayers in Algeria, already in the 19th century. Nonetheless, some items seem to have been produced in France, and stamped there before their import to Algeria.
The strong French connection along with the cultural diversity of Algerian Jewry (which comprises Jewish immigrants from Spain, Morocco, Italy and France), are well reflected in the present items, to the point that it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint whether, for instance, an item was produced in the workshop of a Jewish silversmith from Algeria, from Spanish Morocco, from the community of Tétouan Jews living in Oran (Algeria), from Libya or from France. Likewise, in some cases it is difficult to discern conclusively whether a specific item was marked before it was brought from France to Algeria during the 19th or early 20th century, after it was brought into Algeria, or perhaps decades later, when it was brought back to France during the 1960s.

We are grateful to Chaya Benjamin and Prof. Shalom Sabar for their assistance in cataloguing these items.

PLEASE NOTE: Item descriptions were shortened in translation. For further information, please refer to Hebrew text.

Jewish Ceremonial Art
Jewish Ceremonial Art