ROM Announces Acquisition of the Important Cecil Roth Judaica Collection

Addition of 690 objects from the Beth Tzedec Congregation deepens Museum’s commitment to Jewish art and culture


TORONTO, September 26, 2023 - Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Cecil Roth Judaica collection - one of the most significant collections of its kind. Acquired from the museum at Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto, this extensive collection of Jewish historical objects curated by historian Dr. Cecil Roth marks an important step in bolstering ROM’s already substantial holdings of Judaica.

“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.”

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.

“Beth Tzedec's Cecil Roth collection has found a new and permanent home at ROM. This is a significant development and it’s 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 the Beth Tzedec Congregation. “This move will undoubtedly contribute to the cultural and historical richness of the museum and the community it serves.”

By acquiring one of the largest Judaica collections in North America, ROM further cements its commitment to becoming a leading international destination for Jewish art and culture. The Museum has a long history of collecting Judaica, beginning with the 1909 acquisition of an important Greek brass Hannukah lamp, five years before the opening of the Museum. That first acquisition was followed by pieces from the Kaifeng Jews of China, collected in the 1920s and 30s, and ROM archeological excavations in Jericho and Jerusalem in the 1950s introduced significant ancient Jewish artifacts to the Museum’s collections.

Today, objects related to Jewish culture at ROM number in the thousands. The Cecil Roth Collection will join the Dr. Fred and Joy Cherry Weinberg Collection, which is on display in a dedicated gallery for Judaica established in the 1980s. Additionally, 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.

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), 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.   

Image credits: Scroll of Esther, 18th or 19th century, parchment, handwritten and illuminated, Roth Collection. Photo: Isaac Applebaum.



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About ROM  
Opened in 1914, ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) showcases art, culture, and nature from around the world and across the ages. Today, ROM houses more than 13 million objects, from Egyptian mummies to contemporary sculpture, from meteorites to dinosaurs. ROM is the most visited museum in Canada and one of the top ten museums in North America. It is also the country’s preeminent field research institute, with a diverse range of experts who help us understand the past, make sense of the present, and shape a shared future. Just as impressive is ROM’s facility—a striking combination of heritage architecture and the cutting-edge Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, which marks the Museum as an iconic landmark and global cultural destination. 

We live on in what we leave behind. 

About Beth Tzedec
Beth Tzedec Congregation (Hebrew: בית צדק, lit. 'House of Righteousness') is a pillar in the world of conservative Judaism, whose mission is to inspire and enable our community to live meaningful Jewish lives. Beth Tzedec was dedicated in 1955, the result of the amalgamation of two of the oldest Jewish congregations in Toronto, Goel Tzedec and Beth Hamidrash Hagadol. Beth Tzedec remains distinguished as the largest conservative synagogue in North America, comprising 2,200 member families, representing over 5,000 members.  

Beth Tzedec’s vision is centered around the values that form the core of our community: Care, Connect, Learn, Pray, Celebrate and Give & Get. 

As a “Kehillah Kedoshah”, a righteous community, Beth Tzedec offers the community opportunities to grow spiritually, socially, culturally and educationally, as well as the ability to take part in more than 300 programs annually.