TORONTO, September 26, 2023 – Beth Tzedec Congregation is pleased to announce a new home for the Cecil Roth Judaica collection—one of the most significant collections of its kind. This extensive collection of Jewish historical objects curated by historian Dr. Cecil Roth has been acquired by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), marking an important step in bolstering ROM’s already substantial holdings of Jewish heritage objects.
“Beth Tzedec's Cecil Roth collection has found a new and permanent home at ROM. This is a significant development and it is reassuring to know that this valuable acquisition will receive the care and preservation it deserves while also being made accessible to a broader audience,” says Patti Rotman, President of Beth Tzedec Congregation. “This move will undoubtedly contribute to the cultural and historical richness of the museum and the community it serves”.
Ms Rotman adds, “We are delighted that the Cecil Roth Collection will now join the Dr. Fred Weinberg and Joy Cherry Weinberg Collection at ROM. The combination of these two Judaic collections is sure to enhance the museum's offerings and provide visitors with a rich and diverse cultural experience. Having these collections displayed side by side will create a unique and enriching opportunity for patrons to explore and appreciate the history, art, and cultural significance.”
The Roth collection includes some of the finest known examples of Jewish ritual art, with 690 notable pieces from ancient times to the present day. Acquired by Roth during his extensive travels over a 40-year period from 1919 to 1959, one of the highlights of this exceptional Judaica collection are rare Esther scrolls, including one dating from the 18th or 19th century which was illuminated in China, the only known scroll of this type. The collection also features ornate silver Torah ornaments, exceptional inscribed ketubbot (marriage contracts) from around the world, bronze Hanukkah lamps, cherished items for the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah, Passover and Sukkot holidays as well as a distinctive double-seated circumcision chair.
“Spanning countries and centuries, this singular collection bears the mark of the man who formed it: Dr. Cecil Roth, a renowned writer and scholar and one of the foremost authorities on Jewish history,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director & CEO. “Today, we are honoured to bring this collection to ROM, where it will be shared widely with Museum audiences from Toronto and around the world while continuing to be an invaluable reference for scholars everywhere.”
Currently, objects related to Jewish culture at ROM number in the thousands. In addition to the Weinberg Collection, ROM has presented several exhibitions related to the Jewish experience and heritage, including Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World (2009) and The Evidence Room (2017). Several key pieces from the collection will be featured in an upcoming Museum display, set to take place in 2024. A public display of the full Cecil Roth Collection will take place at ROM within two years.
About Dr. Cecil Roth (1899-1970)
Born in London, England in 1899, Dr Cecil Roth received his Ph.D from Oxford University in 1924, which was followed by a career at Oxford in Post-Biblical Jewish Studies from 1939-1964. A prolific writer, Roth wrote extensively on Jewish history publishing more than 600 articles and publications, which have been translated into several languages. His books include The History of Jews in England (1941) and The History of Jews in Italy (1946), The Jews in the Renaissance (1959), Jewish Art (1961), and The Dead Sea Scrolls (1965), among others. He served as editor-in-chief of the first edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica, published in 1971. During his career, he travelled extensively through Italy, France, Egypt and Israel, building a collection of Judaica piece-by-piece over a period of 40 years.