The Leah Stupniker Collection is focused around one of the Price Library of Judaica's scarce holdings: a small booklet entitled Kometz 'Alim (a handful of leaves). This remarkable booklet first came to the library's attention thanks to a query from a Mr. Stephen Isard in Philadelphia. Stephen had borrowed the booklet through the inter-library loan system and wanted to know if he could photocopy it as its contents comprised in part a childhood journal written by his aunt, Leah Stupniker. Unfortunately, the family's own copy was missing.
The Price Library copy of this booklet (1 of just 3 copies in the U.S.) is a preservation photocopy; the original having deteriorated beyond repair. Fortunately, a copy held in the Klau Library in the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati is an original and, thanks to the generosity and foresight of its librarian, Laurel Wolfson, a collaborative partnership was established to digitize their copy of the booklet at the University of Florida. The original can now be consulted on the internet through both the Klau Library and the UFDC websites.
Kometz 'Alim tells the tragic story of Leah's last years as a child living happily in Palestine, and her reluctant emigration to America where she died on Ellis Island from tuberculosis at the age of 14. Thanks to Stephen and Robert Isard (the sons of Leah's twin sister Sonia), and George Gould (the son of Leah's older sister Alia), we are able to supplement Leah's booklet with family photographs and postcards to fill in more of the background detail. A tentative translation of the booklet has also been added to this new digital collection.
The booklet, Kometz 'Alim (whether read in the original Hebrew or in translation), not only provides a moving story, it also uncovers the engaging thoughts and writings of an extremely talented young girl with a mind far beyond her years.
Historians of the Zionist movement in Palestine, particularly the way in which Zionist principles and ideas manifested themselves in the early school system will find material of use here. The linguistic and historical elements of Kometz 'Alim highlight the ways in which the Hebrew language was taught in pre-1948 Israel and show how that language was absorbed by the first waves of immigrant children in the early 20th century.
The Leah Stupniker Collection is a tribute to the immigrant experience. The materials presented here offer a glimpse into the trials of immigrant life in general and the ways migration affected children in particular. Leah's story symbolizes the many long, arduous, and emotional journeys taken by thousands of Jewish immigrants as they crossed oceans to find a more secure life, and it serves as a stark reminder that there were many who did not make it.
Thank you to our kind donors: Stephen Isard, Robert Isard, George Gould, and Professor Emeritus Frank Norman.
To see ways in which these materials are informing research and teaching at the University of Florida, see the blog detailing related work by the Digital Arts and Science Convergence [Devised Theatre] course which is: "An interdisciplinary approach to the production and execution for a unique presentation of devised theatre. Students produce media artifacts relative to their expressed interests 3D Modeling, 2D Motion Graphics, Theatrical Audio, Video and Digital Set and Projection Design." Students in the course are working with the Leah Stupniker Collection as they prepare a theater production based on these materials. Their thoughts on the materials and the progress of their coursework can be read on the course blog.