Maenni Ruben’s family owned a complete set of the Talmud, the written compendium of the oral tradition of Jewish law and culture compiled in 500 CE, when the Jewish people were first exiled from their homeland.

The Talmud, like the autograph book, is not merely an objet d’art, but a living memorial of Jewish life and meant to be read, not just admired.

The Babylonian Talmud owned by Maenni’s parents was published in 1752 by the Proops brothers of Amsterdam, where Maenni traced his ancestry. Prior to deporting the Danish Jews, the Nazis came to the family’s apartment, seeking to destroy the precious books. Susi Deston recounts the story told to her by the Ruben family; the books were wedged into a window but despite standing right in front of the books, the Nazis couldn’t locate them.

When Maenni and the other Danish Jews of Theresienstadt returned home, they returned to a community still rich in learning with many of the important tools essential to Jewish life, such as this Talmud, still intact.

After Maenni’s death in 1976, the Talmud journeyed around the world, along with the autograph book, after Susi left Copenhagen.

Susi’s second husband, Avi, treasured Maenni’s Talmud and studied from it. Susi and Avi welcomed University of Victoria law students Fred Nudel and Jeanette Cohen into their home for beautiful Shabbat and holiday meals, music, and Jewish learning. When Susi was widowed a second time, the students, now married with two sons, regularly travelled to visit Susi and had her as a guest in their home in Surrey, British Columbia. A few years before her death, Susi gave the Talmud to Fred and Jeanette.

Fred retained an ancient manuscript restorer to repair over two-and-a half centuries of water damage and wear-and-tear. In 2019 Fred completed a daily study cycle of the Talmud. During that seven-and-a-half year cycle, he travelled to Israel, where the Talmud’s words began. At Susi’s request, he learned from a volume of Maenni’s Talmud with Jews at several holy sites in Israel.

Individual volumes of the Talmud continue to travel with Fred to ensure Jewish children have an opportunity to learn about Maenni, the Holocaust, and Judaism.

Jeanette Cohen, Surrey BC Canada