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A New Home for $50 Million

Yitzchak Shalom

After sixty years building the most extensive private Judaica collection in the world, Jack Lunzer is looking for a new home for his rare possessions. But bidders are being deflected on two counts: the $30–$50 million asking price (“Not exactly small change,” Lunzer admits) and the condition that the collection not be dismantled. (“Had I agreed to that, I could have sold it at once.”) Will the diamond magnate and bibliophile find a savior for his collection?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jack Lunzer is very concerned.

For the past two years, he has been looking for a buyer to purchase his unique library, one of the most valuable collections in the Jewish world. Just recently, he thought that he had finally attained his goal. A private, anonymous buyer offered a high price for the library. But money was not the only factor that Lunzer was taking into consideration, and the deal fell through at the last minute.

Now he is worried again. At his advanced age, he wants to see his collection end up in good hands, a buyer who will appreciate the true significance of the thousands of ancient seforim.

“This valuable, historic collection should belong to the future generations of the Jewish nation,” he says from Fairport, his mansion in the Golders Green neighborhood of London. “I have invested many years of research into this collection. The seforim are like my children.”

 

Jack of all Trades

An octogenarian with a sharp sense of humor, Jack Lunzer’s frequent smiles reveal a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

Aside from his extensive business interest — specifically in the flawed diamond industry — throughout the world, Mr. Lunzer also served as French Guinea’s honorary consul general to Great Britain, occasionally engaging in diplomatic missions. But his greatest claim to fame is the Valmadonna Trust Library, which he has been working on for sixty years.

The Valmadonna Trust Library derives its name from an ancient, picturesque village in the mountainous Piedmont region of northern Italy, where Mr Lunzer had family ties. In the collectors’ world, Valmadonna is considered the most exclusive and valuable privately owned Hebraica library. There are larger, more varied libraries, but none as glorious as Valmadonna. Thirteen thousand rare, early-edition sifrei kodesh from the four corners of the world, almost 300 handwritten manuscripts, and hundreds of other items with historic value have, until fairly recently, filled Fairport. Seforim filled every corner of the house: the windowsills, cupboards, behind doors, and a special structure in the garden. Most of the books are elegantly bound in leather, and punctilious order is maintained. It is clear that a loving hand and a professional and experienced eye have chosen each item in the collection.

How does one person combine his duties as a diamond dealer, a respected philanthropist, and one of the leading experts in antique seforim?

Lunzer smiles broadly. “It’s a long story,” he says. “I need at least eighty years to tell it.”

 

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