Artifact of the month for January

The Norwegian Constitution in Hebrew

Translated by Meyer Aschkanaze (1850 – 1908)


Oslo Jewish Museum marks the 200-year anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution in 2014 with a translation of the Constitution into Hebrew. The translator, Rabbi Meyer Aschkanaze, published the book in 1904 with a preface written in Norwegian and French. The preface ends with the following words: Later generations will learn, through this translation into Hebrew, how the Norwegian people have granted civil rights to all, regardless of person or position.Portrettbilde av Meyer Aschkanaze

Meyer Aschkanaze was born in Stanislau, Ukraine, in 1850 and came to Norway in 1898. He must have been an exceptionally productive and multilingual man all the while he, in a short period of time not only translated the Norwegian Constitution into Hebrew (as well as the Norwegian national anthem), but also authored an acrostic in Hebrew in honor of the Norwegian poet, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnsons 70th birthday. In 1905 Asckanaze published King Haakon and Queen Maud’s pedigree, which he traced all the way down to the Norse God Odin.Norges grunnlov på hebraisk

As a rabbi Meyer Aschkanaze was first associated with DMT (The Mosaic Community) in Oslo. Later he worked for a smaller congregation, Adath Jeschurun, established in 1901. In 1902 he married Fanny Landau (b.1880 in Romania). A few years after the birth of his daughters, Edda (b.1904) and Sarah (b.1906), Meyer Aschkanaze died of a severe stroke to the head.

On the 26th of November 1942 his widow and two daughters were arrested by the Norwegian State Police and deported to Auschwitz. They were all killed at arrival. Along with Meyer Asckanaze’s optimistic words of freedom three decades earlier.