Soviet, German, and Early Zionist Posters at Kestenbaum & Co. on September 22

Kestenbaum & Company’s early Fall 2016 auction of Judaica will be held on Thursday, September 22nd. The sale opens with an extremely fine collection of important Soviet, German and early Zionist posters followed by a strong section of Fine Art, the highlight of which is a striking painting by Isidor Kaufmann, one of the most outstanding of all Jewish portrait painters.

The historic, richly illustrated Soviet posters in the sale feature highly politicized themes promoting a Communist utopia to Russian Jewry. Topics touch upon elections, economics, military buildup and the new Jewish autonomous center of Birobidzhan. Also included are Soviet movie posters with Jewish themes. Some truly stellar examples include:

  • “Remember The War…Be Vigilant.” Yiddish text, c. 1939 Estimate: $10,000-15,000 (Lot 4)
  • “Who is an Anti-Semite?” Text in Russian. Designed by Nikolai Denisovski. c. 1927 Estimate: $7,000-9,000 (Lot 5)
  • “Only in Russia do Jews have the Right to Work the Land” in Yiddish text, Moscow, 1928. Estimate: $5,000-7,000 (Lot 3)

Nazi-related posters include:

  • An early election poster issued by the German Nazi Party featuring a “horse-race” between the candidates, Bayreuth, c. 1932. Estimate: $4,000-5,000 (Lot 15)
  • A poster promoting a benefit concert for German-Jewish refugees to be held at the Municipal Theater of Amsterdam, 1933. Estimate: $5,000-7,000 (Lot 14)

Early Zionist related posters include:

  • “To Me Belongs Vengeance and Recompense!” Hebrew text, depicting soldiers attacking under the flag of the Jewish Brigade, 1945. Estimate: $3,000-5,000 (Lot 21)
  • “Blockade-Running - For Life and For Renewal”, Hebrew text, encouraging the clandestine entry of Jews into Palestine, May, 1947. Estimate $3,000-5,000 (Lot 22)

The auction catalogue cover lot is Isidor Kaufmann’s Portrait of a Hassidic Rabbi, Austro-Hungarian, 1853-1921, estimate $200,000-250,000. This fine, beautifully detailed painting, never before seen at auction, has a stellar provenance having remained in the family of the late Edmund Traub of Prague and London for almost a century. (Lot 29)

Further noteworthy Fine Art offerings include works formerly in the Collection of Lady Charlotte Louise Adela Evelina Rothschild Behrens (Lots 49-52), Samuel Hirszenberg’s oil painting Nach der Sonntagmesse, 1906, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 30) and Artur Markowicz’s The Cemetery, early 20th century, at an estimate of $6,000-8,000 (Lot 31). Further selections include works by noted artists such as Jakob Steinhardt, Max Liebermann, Jozef Israels, Hermann Struck and Roman Vishniac.

The Ceremonial Art offered in this sale is most unusual. Featured are not the typical menorahs and spice boxes but rather, interesting and uncommon Folk Art and items representative of the broad sweep of Jewish customs and culture such as textiles, synagogue appurtenances, coins, medals, novel cups, etc. Including:

  • A rare Afghan silver and wood Elijah circumcision staff, 19th century. Estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 62)
  • A Dutch wooden synagogue lavabo, 19th century. Estimate $4,000-6,000 (Lot 61)
  • A Land of Israel copper synagogue lavabo, c. 1900. Estimate $1,000-1,500 (Lot 60)
  • A Bezalel marble writing desk, Jerusalem, early 20th century. Estimate $4,000-6,000 (Lot 56)
  • An extensive mohel’s circumcision set with a suite of traditional tools along with related pharmaceutical components, all housed in a traditional apothecary-cabinet bag. Estimate: $5,000-7,000 (Lot 66)
  • A group of four ritual shechitah knives, 20th century. Estimate $1,200-1,800 (Lot 77)
  • A particular highlight is a signed, Boris Schatz sculpture of a reclining baby boy, Paris, 1893, at an estimate of $3,000-5,000 (Lot 55).

The sale continues with the fourth part a Singular Collection of Early Printed Books and Rabbinic Manuscripts sold by order of the Execution Office, District High Court, Tel Aviv. Prominent in this section are three German manuscript communal records including Pinkas HaKahal, Heidingfeld, 1773-1851, estimate $10,000-15,000 (Lot 96), Pinkas Witzenhausen-Barchfeld, 1765, estimate $3,000-5,000 (Lot 97) and Pinkas Bedek Habayith, Furth, 1787-1854, at an estimate of $5,000-7,000 (Lot 98). Sure to generate interest are manuscripts and autograph letters including those by Rabbis Ya’akov ibn Tzur, Moshe Meisels, Joseph Sinzheim and Yoseph Yehuda of Balta. 

Notable manuscripts from other properties include a lengthy autograph letter by Amram Blau, leader of Neturei Karta, concerning public opposition to his proposed marriage to a French convert, Jerusalem, 1965, estimate $5,000-7,000 (Lot 120) and a beautifully composed Spanish manuscript of Rabbi Saul Morteira’s magnum opus: “Treatise on the Truth of the Law of Moses,” Amsterdam, 1705, estimate $20,000-25,000 (Lot 132). Also featured are signed and inscribed books by Rabbis Chaim Joseph David Azulai, Meir Shapiro, the Rogatchover Gaon and Moshe Feinstein. 

The printed book section of the sale includes Incunabula, early 16th century texts, Passover Hagadahs, Chassidic books and Holocaust-related material among others.

Highlights include:

  • The Soncino Machzor, the very first Hebrew printed prayer book, 1485-6 (an incomplete copy). Estimate $30,000-50,000 (Lot 280)
  • A beautiful bibliophilic set of the first printing of the Talmud in Amsterdam, 1644-47. Estimate $20,000-30,000 (Lot 304)
  • Elimelech of Lizhensk’s No’am Elimelech, Slavuta, 1794. Estimate $15,000-20,000 (Lot 231)
  • A large number of Talmud tractates printed by Daniel Bomberg (Lots 183-193)
  • The highly important siddur of R. Asher, Koretz, 1796. Estimate $6,000-9,000 (Lot 232)
  • The first translation of the Hebrew daily prayer book into the English language, London, 1770. Estimate $4,000-6,000 (Lot 206)
  • The first anthology of the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, Zolkiew, 1794. Estimate: $3,000-5,000 (Lot 230)
  • Sholem Asch’s Der Got Fun Nekomeh, a first edition of his controversial Yiddish play focusing on lesbianism, Vilna, 1907, estimate $1,000-1,500 (Lot 215)
  • A rare Auschwitz concentration camp bank-note, 1943-44, estimate $15,000-20,000 (Lot 265) 
  • A Protective Passport (Schutz-Pass) issued and signed by Raoul Wallenberg, Budapest, 1944, estimate $8,000-12,000 (Lot 266)
  • A One Shilling banknote from the Hay Internment Camp, Australia, 1941, at an estimate of $3,000-5,000 (Lot 267).

The auction will take place on Thursday, September 22nd at 3:00 pm in our gallery located at 242 West 30th Street in New York City. The exhibition will be held from Sunday, September 18th through Wednesday, September 21st. For further information, to request images, or for any other queries, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197 or

Auction Guide