Ecstasy and Agony


Step into the Judaica Suite when it is dark and quiet and you might see three apparitions locked forever in an endless dance of ecstasy and agony. Listen carefully and perhaps you will hear the haunting strains of the Albeniz Asturias in between flashes of color and light. Here are the ghosts of Gertrud Leistikow, exotic dancer, and Samuel Leser Schwarz and Else Berg – the Dutch expressionists who painted her for their calendar.

Gertrud Leistikow (1885-1948) was a German-born dancer who is regarded as the most “tragic and Dionysian of all German modern dancers.”* Leistikow’s body was supple and expressive, but she kept her ordinary-looking face hidden from view with veils, masks and bodily contortions that kept the focus on her limbs. Leistikow achieved great recognition in Weimar Germany and was best known for a grotesque form of expression, in which the dance movements swung rapidly between exuberance and despondency. These movements were enhanced by bizarre-looking costumes, or the pure lines Leistikow created with her naked form.

Leistikow often used dance to interpret folk songs, such as those written by the Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz (as depicted above), but her attire did not reflect the cultural background represented by the music and instead created an unexpected tension between sight and sound. Following marriage to a Dutch merchant, her international fame waned, and she confined herself to Holland where she opened three schools of dance. During her career, Leistikow was the subject of photographs and artwork, including the calendar in which she is immortalized by the Dutch Jewish artists, Schwarz and Berg.

Samuel Leser Schwarz, also known as Mommie Schwarz, was a painter and graphic artist born in Holland in 1876. Schwarz studied art, most notably Expressionism, in Berlin in the first decade of the twentieth century. While he was there, he encountered his cousin, Else Berg, an established painter from Upper Silesia in Germany. The two quickly became very close, not only physically and emotionally, but also through their art. Indeed, so great was their mutual influence, it later became difficult to tell their artwork apart. Both artists are associated with the bold colorful strokes of Expressionism and the stark lines of Cubist figuration.*

In 1914, Schwarz and Berg moved to Holland where they became members of the famous Bergen School of painters and well-recognized figures in the Amsterdam art scene. They were married in 1920. During this period, Gertrud Leistikow served as a muse for both painters: Berg copied her bodily form and Schwarz used images of her dance scenes for posters. The Gertrud Leistikow Kalendar was created in 1925. It is signed by Schwarz, but it was probably produced by both husband and wife. The only known copy in existence is held in the Judaica Suite in Smathers Library, University of Florida.*

Seventeen years after the creation of the Leistikow Kalendar, when the Second World War broke out, Schwarz and Berg refused to wear a Star of David or to go into hiding. In November 1942, both were deported to Auschwitz where they were murdered on arrival.


Ana Vidovic plays Isaac Albeniz’s Asturias


* Karl Toepfer, Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935, University of California Press, 1997 (

* Else Berg and Mommie Schwarz: Artist Couple in the Dutch Avant Garde. An exhibition for the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam ( See also, Linda Horn, Else Berg en Mommie Schwarz, Kunstenaarspaar in Amsterdam 1910-1942, Uitgeverij de Kunst, 2012.

* Top Image: “Dans Albeniz (Isaac Albeniz), May-June, 1925,” Gertrud Leistikow Kalendar, Amsterdam, 1925. The Gertrud Leistikow Kalendar comprises six folio leaves, 19 x 10.5 inches, each folio has one image of Leistikow performing a dance.

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A Tale of Two Women


A biography of the Viennese Royal Opera singer, Caroline von Gomperz-Bettelheim* is one of the treasures of the Judaica Suite at the University of Florida.

An exceptionally talented singer and musician, Caroline Bettelheim (1845-1925) first appeared in public at the age of eight in a duet with her teacher, the Hungarian composer, Karl Goldmark (1830-1915). In 1861, at the age of 16, she made her debut as a pianist, and four months later, under the tutelage of Moritz Laufer, she appeared on stage at the Royal Opera House of Vienna as a priestess in “Iphigencia on Taurus.”

Caroline had a strong stage presence and a rare alto voice which attracted great attention, and for the next six years she appeared in both grand and light operatic roles. She also starred on the stage in other European cities, including Covent Garden in London.

In 1867, she gave up her career to marry the Austrian politician, Ritter Julius von Gomperz (1824-1909). After marriage, Caroline appeared in public only on special occasions, such as the grand event in 1876 to celebrate Beethoven in which she sang with Liszt in a Handel oratorio under the direction of Brahms. Today, Caroline’s portrait hangs in the British National Portrait Gallery.

Not only is our copy of her biography scarce (only five copies are held in US academic libraries), it is particularly special because the ghost of Caroline floats in its flyleaf. Our copy contains a handwritten dedication to her friend, Marie Landesmann, which Caroline penned and signed in September 1919.


Marie’s ghost is there too, inviting us to ponder her identity. Given the circles in which Caroline moved, it is highly likely that this was Marie Landesmann (b. 1857), daughter and secretary of the celebrated Austrian novelist and poet, Heinrich Landesmann (1821-1902) best known by his pseudonym, Hieronymus Lorm.

At the age of 15, after suffering many illnesses as a child, Lorm’s eyesight and hearing were almost destroyed. Later in life, when he became completely blind and deaf, his devoted daughter, Marie, served as his eyes and ears. Towards the end of his life, Lorm developed a form of tactile signing, the Lorm Deafblind Manual Alphabet. This alphabet is now the standard form of tactile signing in Europe.

Lorm had not wanted to publicize his system, so Marie published it after his death in 1908.* Thus one wonders, as Marie’s ghost hovers around both books, how much input she had when it came to preparing the system for publication: was she a mere secretary, or did she help shape its tenets?

Caroline’s story was curtailed by marriage; Marie’s hidden tale is unfinished.


*Caroline von Gomperz-Bettelheim; biographische Blätter. Zum 1. Juni 1915 für Freunde gedruckt, Wien, 1915

*Marie Landesmann, Dr. Phil. Heinrich Landesmanns leicht fassliche und einfach ausführbare Finger-Zeichensprache für Taubstume Taube, Taubblinde und Schwerhörige. Brünn: Friedrich Irrgang, 1908.

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Traces of a Journey

Among the rare Rabbinic works in the Rev Herman Doych collection in the Judaica Suite, is a first edition of Binyan Ariel, comprising homilies on the Torah and short tales on the Talmud compiled by the former Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, Saul Lowenstam (1717-1790). The work was published in 1778 by Samuel Proops, the leading Ashkenazi printer in 18th century Amsterdam, and bears his signature priestly hand sign.


At the bottom of the title page is an antiquated signature of ownership: Michelfeld, July [1817] L. Dinkelspiel. The name is written in full in Hebrew characters around the printers mark: לעמל[...] דינקעלשפיעל. Two entries for “Dinkelspiel” are found on a name adoption list from Michelfeld in Baden, Germany in 1815. The first is L. Dinkelspiel who was originally named Low Emanuel; he is listed as a trader born in 1769; the second Dinkelspiel is Lemle, originally Lemle David (Lemle son of David) born in 1791.[1]

Nine years earlier, in 1782, the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II, had issued an “Edict of Tolerance” calling for the full integration of Jewish subjects into the Empire’s economic life. Jews were to be granted access to schools and universities, and they were to be allowed to train as apprentices and enter previously barred professions. Yet, the edict also declared that Jewish languages were not allowed to be used in writing; all official documents had to be written in German. In 1787, another ruling called for every Jew to adopt a German surname. All names derived from Hebrew, particularly patronymic names such as Lemle son of David were no longer permitted. Established surnames were to be “Germanized” and names unknown in German prohibited.[2]

Another ghost hovers around the pages in our book. On the end leaves the name Abraham David Rosenberger appears over and over again. This name together with the word “Michelfeld” is written in Latin and Hebrew script; sometimes the name appears in full, sometimes just Abraham David, sometimes simply Rosenberger, but in one entry it appears with the date 1810 and the name Lamle David. The relationship between the two Michelfeld residents is still unclear, but Rosenberger seems to have been using the blank leaves in his book to record something of his lineage while practicing his new German name.


An Abraham Rosenberger from Michelfeld is also listed on the abovementioned 1815 name adoption list. His former name was either David Abraham or Abraham David; his date of birth is given as 1761. He traded in dry goods, and he was married to Bela with whom he had five children.[3]

At some point during its 236 year-old life, our book then took another journey east. Along the way, or maybe before it left, the book was owned by a Joseph Bauer who noted his name on May 13, 1860. Bauer did not, however, record his whereabouts.

Around 60 or 70 years later, Binyan Ariel was in the possession of Rev Hermann Deutsch (Herman Doych). Deutsch may have inherited this title along with his other books, or he may have purchased it as part of a small working library, perhaps during his time serving as a teacher and shochet with rabbinical duties at the Congregation of Cronheim from 1932-1936.

In 1936, while visiting a member of the congregation, Deutsch was ambushed by the Nazi police who falsely accused him of violating the Nuremberg Laws which prohibited the kosher slaughter of meat. Deutsch was given four weeks notice of his deportation to Hungary. Thanks to exhaustive efforts on his part he was granted a four-month extension, and help from an emigration officer in Munich enabled him to gain passage for himself and for his immediate family away from a troubled Europe to the safety of Colombia.

On April 24, 1937, the Deutsch family left Hamburg on board a ship headed to Buenaventura, Colombia. Refugees from Nazi Germany were forbidden from taking out money or valuables like gold or jewelry and so the family had to purchase furniture and goods to ship. Included in their cargo were Hermann Deutsch’s books. The family resettled in Cali where they lived for two years and assisted other refugee families, before gaining permission to emigrate to the United States.

In 1939, Rev. Deutsch (later changed to Doych) accepted the position of shochet in Becker’s Kosher Market in Jacksonville, Florida and was instrumental in the founding of the Etz Chaim Synagogue. In 1952, he moved to Miami where he remained for the rest of his life. His books, including the Binyan Ariel, stayed in the possession of his family and were later cared for by his granddaughter, Lauren Rudick in her home in Atlanta.[4]

Lauren and Beatrice (Rev Doych’s daughter), have donated these precious books to the Price Library of Judaica at the University of Florida in Gainesville.


[1] See the article by Helen Nestor on her family origins, including Lemle David (Dinkelspiel) and his 27 children.

[2] See Esther Bauer’s account of the History of German Jewish Surnames

[3] Members of this family can be traced on a family website created by Alex Calzareth

[4] See the biographical account of Rev Herman Doych’s life by Beatrice Doych Schemer.

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Remnants of a lost world

In a dark alcove dedicated to books on the Bible is a thin, worn, unprepossessing book. Its title, Zwei alte arabische Uebersetzungen des Buches Ruth (“Two Old Arabic Translations of the Book of Ruth”), to the uninitiated appears even less inviting. Published at the turn of the twentieth century, this short work is one example of the prolific output of the Berlin publisher and bookseller, S. Calvary & Co., whose inventory included hundreds of titles by scholars engaged in the burgeoning Wissenschaft des Judentums (Judaic Studies) movement of the 19th century.

The Arabic translations were edited by Moritz Peritz from medieval manuscripts held in the Bodleian Library and the British Museum. A scholar of Maimonides, Dr. Peritz (1853-1930) was also the Rabbi of a small Jewish population in the city of Liegnitz (now Legnica) in the province of Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) which was then part of the German Empire.

A Jewish presence in Liegnitz/Legnica can be traced back reliably to the 14th century, but pogroms in the 15th century led to the community’s expulsion. In 1755, a Prussian edict allowed affluent Jewish families with a minimum of 1,000 ducats to return to the area. A few Jewish families settled there in 1812; a cemetery was established in 1815, and a new synagogue was built in 1847. By the time that Moritz Peritz became rabbi in 1883, the community was flourishing, reaching over 1,000 members at its height in the early 20th century. In 1938, however, the population had dwindled to 236, and the synagogue was raised to the ground during Kristallnacht. Many of its residents were deported to Theresienstadt in 1941.

Among the few sources available for the history of the Jews of Liegnitz is a short 30-page history compiled by Rabbi Peritz himself, Aus der Geschichte der Jeudischen Gemeinde zu Liegnitz. Peritz’s history was published in 1912 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of that community. A copy of this rare and significant work, one of just nine copies held in world libraries, also resides in our Judaica Suite.

Some years after the publication of Zwei alte arabische Uebersetzungen des Buches Ruth, our copy had found its way to Breslau. Two of its pages were either missing or had come loose and the solution of its owner, or perhaps the bookseller, was to attach the pages using insert leaves added to the front and back of the book. These fly-leaves were actually constructed from one single page, an old business invoice, parts of which are also pasted down to the binding.  The invoice is dated 25 February, 1914, and it lists several types of men’s clothing, mostly hose (pants), and cloth along with their prices from a department store named Fraenkel & Jossek.


Ready retrievable information about this store is hard to find, but its location at Schweidnitzer Strasse 21 in Breslau, once the location of the Monopol Hotel and its lower ground shops, which themselves were situated in the most elegant shopping district in that city, suggests that it must have been a thriving business and possibly one of Jewish ownership. Many Jewish businesses and Jewish family homes were situated on and around Schweidnitzer Strasse. These stores were dispossessed of their Jewish owners in the 1930s and their stories dispersed to the wind. Ghosts in the pages, like the scrap invoice in this book, may contain details that can help reconstruct the picture of a lost world, the world of Jewish life in pre-war Europe.


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