Dr. David Jeselsohn was born in Tel Aviv in 1938. His father was a lawyer and his mother a dentist, both coming to then-Palestine from Germany. In Tel Aviv, he went to elementary and high schools. In 1958, after serving in the Israel Defense Forces, he moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where his family was already living. He studied economics at the University of Zurich and received his doctorate in economics in 1965.
That same year he returned to Israel, where he married Jemima Rosenthaler. He spent the next seven years working for the Rothschild Foundation in Israel. He was responsible for the administration of the new Instructional Television Trust (later renamed Educational Television), set up by the Rothschild Foundation, and thus ushered in the television era in Israel. He then worked for three years for a publicly traded investment company. Finally, he decided to obtain the necessary theoretical basis for his archaeological hobby by enrolling at Tel Aviv University. There he participated in excavations of the Institute of Archaeology and Antipatris (Aphek) and the Canada Park (Emmaus). After earning a BA, he returned to Zurich in 1978, where he still lives with his family. While in Zurich, he worked for a large commodities firm for seven years and since then as an independent financial expert, administrator and director of local and international companies. He and his wife have six children, twenty-one grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He divides his time between his home in Zurich and Jerusalem.
Alongside his professional activity, he held – or is still holding – several public positions, among them the presidency of the Central Committee of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, membership in the board of Trustees and the Vice-Chairmanship of the Council of Founders at Bar Ilan University in Israel, the presidency of the Swiss and European Friends of the Bar Ilan University in Israel and the presidency of the Swiss Friends of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. He and his wife were founders and sponsors of the Moriah Jewish Secondary School in Zurich. He holds an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University and is an honorary fellow of the Israel Museum.
David and Jemima are the founders and sponsors of the Jeselsohn Epigraphic Center for Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University. They are also the founders and supporters of the David and Jemima Jeselsohn Library, published by Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi (Jerusalem), Magnes Press (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), and the Pennsylvania State University. The Library publishes three series of books:
- Between Bible and Mishna (thirteen volumes in Hebrew so far)
- Treasures of the Past (seven volumes in Hebrew and three in English so far)
- Studies of the Ancient Period (eleven volumes in Hebrew and one on English so far)
David actively pursues his hobbies. His collections of archaeological artifacts, Judaica, manuscripts and books reflect his wide-ranging interests. The most important of his archaeology sub-collections are oil lamps, coins, weights and writing (ostraca, seals, bullae and inscription, including the impressive Jeselsohn Stone, a three-foot-tall tablet on which is inscribed a text known as Gabriel Revelation, dating to the late first century BCE). One of the most important manuscripts in the collection is the Nuremberg Mahzor of 1331, which is part of a permanent exhibition in the Judaica wing of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Many artifacts from the Jeselsohn Collection have been published and exhibited in the past, and are presently part of permanent and traveling exhibitions in museums around the world. Plans are under way to make the collection more available to scholars, students and public through a series of monographs and catalogues. The first such monograph, “Masorah and Text Menahem de Lonzano”, about a fifteenth-century Bible manuscript from Spain (MS Jeselsohn 5), was published by Jordan Penkower in 2014.
The first catalogue of the collection – “The Jeselsohn Collection of Aramaic Ostraca from Idumea”, by Ada Yardeni – was published in 2016.
PUBLICATIONS BY DR. DAVID JESELSOHN
- Monetary Policy and Currency in Israel, 1948-1961, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Zurich, 1965 (German).
- Interest Restrictions, Currency Substitutes and Monetary Policy in Israel, Zeitschrift des Institutes fur Welwirtschaft 98 (1967), pp. 155-182 (German).
- A New Coin Type with Hebrew Inscription, IEJ 24, no. 2 (1974), pp. 73-76.
- Auction 1, 14 May 1974: Coins and Weights, Tel Aviv, 1974. Catalogue of Agora auction.
- Auction 2, 21 May 1975: Coins and Weights, Tel Aviv, 1975. Catalogue of Agora auction.
- The “Two-Humped Camel” Drachm of Trajan – The Reasons for Its Issue – A New Variant, Alon: Internal Quarterly of the Israel Numismatic Society 5, No. 4 (1976), pp. 68-73 (Hebrew).
- An Unpublished Fare Voucher of the Jaffa Bus Company, Alon: Internal Quarterly of the Israel Numismatic Society 6, No. 3 (1978), pp. 44-45 (Hebrew).
- Hever Yehudim: A New Jewish Coin, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 112 (1980), pp. 11-17.
- Temple-Type and Deity on Coins of Palestine, in Proceedings of the 9th International Congress of Numismatics, Louvain-la Neuf, Luxembourg, 1982, pp. 409-419.
- Review of Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum: The Collection of the American Numismatic Society, part. 6: Palestine-South Arabia, by Yaakov Meshorer, Schweizer Munzblatter 32, No. 127 (1982), pp. 74-76.
- Review of Coins Reveal: A Catalogue of Coins and Medals from the Jewish Museum Collection, vol. 1, by Yaakov Meshorer with Ira Rezak, The Shekel 17, no. 2 (1984), pp. 25-26.
- Review of 260 Years of Ancient Jewish Coins: A Catalog, by J. Maltiel-Gerstenfeld, SAN: Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics 15, no. 1 (1984), pp. 12-13.
- An Unpublished Token of the Jaffa Bus Co. Ltd., The Shekel 19, no. 3 (1986), pp. 28-29.
14. Review of The Coinage of the Bar Kokhba War by Leo Mildenberg, and Silber aus dem Grab Davids? (Silver from the Tomb of David?) by Thomas Fischer, Judaica 43, no. 2 (1987), pp. 109-112 (German).