Friedman does an excellent job telling the remarkable story of a thousand year old Hebrew manuscript, known as The Crown of Aleppo. Along with the history of the codex itself, there is great background about the community of Aleppo Jews, an overview of Jewish populations in the Middle East, and Zionism. The most controversial aspect of the book’s history only occurred in the 20th century, when the manuscript was nearly destroyed in a riot that devastated the Aleppo synagogue, then transferred to Israel for safekeeping, much to the chagrin of the Aleppo community. At some point, during this upheaval, hundreds of pages went missing, and Friedman put his journalistic skills to work trying to discover what happened. Unfortunately, Friedman could not prove beyond a doubt the fate of the missing sections because there simply wasn’t enough proof. Israel, the book’s protector, went to great lengths to cover up an embarrassment, and Friedman could only draw conclusions based on elusive evidence and contradictory testimony. The Aleppo Jews, who had been driven out of their city and scattered, lost custody of the book they had safeguarded for centuries. If it had been left in there care, The Crown probably wouldn’t be in its current condition. This incredible manuscript and the invaluable information it contained will remain incomplete, but its entire story finally comes to light in this fascinating book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.