Treasures evaluated at inaugural Judaica Jackpot

The first ever Judaica Appraisal Fair, hosted by Scottsdale’s J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in conjunction with Arizona Jewish Life, was an unqualified success. Each time slot was filled, from 5 to 8 pm, as a trio of expert appraisers shared their expertise with guests who had signed up to learn the history/provenance of their prized possessions. Others in the crowd enjoyed complimentary wine and delectable appetizers from LaBella restaurant, while they socialized and listened in on the detailed verbal assessments of antiques, heirlooms and other items.

Jewish Life publishers Robert Philip and Cindy Saltzman and staff members were on hand to welcome everyone.

Among the treasures: a Persian dagger with the Star of David on its handle; prayer books printed in 1931; an engraved and personalized sword worn by a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows; and a leather scroll with Hebrew lettering relating “The Story of Esther,” which one rabbi in attendance observed was definitely the oldest of its kind he ever had seen. Other treasures included two watercolor pages from an Aramaic prayer book dating back to the 1500s and a Herbert Meyers’ signed and stamped silver mezuzah from the 1920s. Perhaps most chilling were official papers and an authentic yellow star from World War II.

Not unexpectedly, there was a plethora of mezuzot, menorahs and Kiddush cups that might not be particularly valuable monetarily but were precious to the owners, who happily shared their stories.

On a personal note: When my husband and I moved to Phoenix some 50 years ago, I asked my mother if I could take with me from New York the Shabbat candlesticks that I had grown up with and always had assumed my maternal grandparents had carried with them in steerage from “The Old Country.” My mother burst out laughing and told me that in fact she had purchased them herself – in Woolworth’s! They remain to this day one of my cherished “heirlooms.”

The crowd also took advantage of the opportunity to chat with and learn from rabbis Yaacov Ashin and Don Bacharach representing the Phoenix Community Kollel; author Marty Brounstein; and Arizona Jewish Historical Society representatives Emily Garber, a genealogist, and Jeffrey Schesnol – and to ooh and ahh over an elaborate display by collector extraordinaire Larry Cutler. His rarities included a copy of The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, signed by Henry Ford and published in 1920 in Dearborn, MI; an ancient Israeli shekel; and a document signed by George Washington, among many other unique pieces.

Calling the evening “a fantastic event,” Josh Levine says, “All of our appraisers commented on the scope of wonderful treasures we saw.” Josh called in an outside expert to do further testing on the leather scroll to determine its exact age after the event. Anticipation was hight that it might be from the 15th or 16th century. Outside experts sadly determined it was a much more recent creation.

J. Levine Auction House holds weekly auctions at 11 am on Thursday mornings and has specialty auctions on a regular basis. Specialty auctions in April include Luxury Handbag and Accessories on April 2 and a Photography and Print Auction on April 16.

For more information on the Judaica, some of which may be available for purchase in the future, or to submit items for appraisal, call the auction house at 480-448-2236.


Story and photos by Leni Reiss

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