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'All handwritten' by 'a maiden who is humble and pleasant'

Rare 18th-century Esther scroll penned by teenage Italian girl unveiled in Jerusalem

‘They shall praise her actions at the city gates’: Auction house says item written by 14-year-old Luna Amron sheds light on role of women in era’s Italian Jewish community

  • An 18th-century book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
    An 18th-century book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
  • An 18th-century Book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
    An 18th-century Book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
  • An 18th-century Book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
    An 18th-century Book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
  • An 18th-century Book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
    An 18th-century Book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
  • An 18th-century Book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)
    An 18th-century Book of Esther written by a teenage Italian girl. (Courtesy/Kedem Auction House)

An auction house in Jerusalem has revealed a rare antique Jewish text that was written by a teenage girl.

Luna Amron, a 14-year-old Jewish girl from Rome, Italy, penned the 18th-century scroll of the Book of Esther.

Jerusalem’s Kedem Auction House announced the find on Wednesday. The scroll will go up for sale next week.

There are few examples of text that were written by women during the era, and the Amron scroll illustrates the importance of religious women in Italian Jewish community life at the time, the auction house said.

Amron was listed as the author in the scroll’s colophon, a statement at the end of the text with information about its publication. Kedem said her family was prominent and wealthy in their community.

The colophon said the scroll was “All handwritten, with the hand of G-d who bestowed wisdom to a maiden who is humble and pleasant. Mistress Luna Tama daughter of the honored philanthropist, the honorable Yehudah Amron and she is in the fourteen year of her life. Give her from the fruits of her hand and they shall praise her actions at the city gates.”

It wasn’t clear if Amron had both illustrated the document and written its text.

Kedem researchers said they had uncovered a marriage contract from nine years after the scroll’s publication detailing a 1776 marriage between Luna Amron and Jacob di Segni, a man from another prominent Italian Jewish family.

The Book of Esther, which tells the story of Jewish deliverance during the Achaemenid Persian Empire around the 5th century BCE, is traditionally read from a handwritten scroll as part of the Purim holiday.

Jewish law is unclear on the status of a Book of Esther that was written by a woman. Some notable scholars have said such a scroll is invalid, while others, including Maimonides, believed it was permissible.

There are two other known copies of the Book of Esther written in Italy by women — one dating to 1840 and another from 1564, the auction house said.

In February, a rare scroll of the book of Esther, believed to have been penned in the mid-15th century in the Iberian Peninsula, was donated to the National Library of Israel and made available online ahead of this year’s Purim festival.

The artifact is one of the world’s oldest known scrolls recounting the Purim story, the library said.

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