News From the Library: Vol. 2 No. 2 (October 2006)



What is the vision that moves our collective work? In the language of the Plan's introduction:

The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary houses the most significant collection of Judaica and Hebraica in the western hemisphere... The size and uniqueness of our collection, and its value and appeal to so many constituencies within and outside of the Jewish community, bestows upon us profound responsibilities. In the broadest sense, we are charged as the keepers of Jewish heritage for this generation and future generations. Accordingly, the mission of The Library is to collect, preserve, and make available the literary and cultural heritage of the Jewish people.

Collecting, preserving, and making available are the foundations of The Library's strategy, and implementing each requires an understanding of the needs of our various constituents, rapidly changing library technologies, and the resources available to achieve our goals.

We begin by defining The Library's constituencies. Though this might seem an obvious task, the size and complexity of The Library require that we think more broadly than you might imagine. Whom, indeed, does The Library serve?

Our first and most obvious constituency is the immediate JTS community: our students and faculty. The Library provides resources to these groups so that they can successfully complete their courses of study, their teaching, and their research. But The Library... is not just a "college library. By virtue of the uniqueness and extent of our holdings, we serve as the "Jewish library of record in North America. Accordingly, we serve national, even global academia, the broader Jewish community, and the non-Jewish community as well. The Library has an open-door policy that permits anyone who is interested to use our resources.

A central theme of The Library's mission is the recognition that the unparalleled content of the collection obligates us to serve researchers of Jewish history and religion from around the world. We also recognize the artistic and aesthetic value of our holdings for researchers in other fields as well as the general public. Accordingly, by virtue of our custodianship of this historic and irreplaceable collection, we are obligated to protect and preserve it for future generations. These future generations are also, therefore, one of our "constituencies.

It should also be noted that our constituency naturally extends beyond Conservative Judaism to all the religious and secular Jewish communities, as well as to the interested non-Jewish public.

The range of our constituencies requires us to view our mission in the broadest possible terms. Accordingly, with respect to The Library's mission to collect, the Strategic Plan states:

The Library has a comprehensive acquisitions policy with respect to all recognized fields of Jewish studies. We believe this policy must be maintained to serve our constituencies and fulfill our mission.

The Library must balance its mission to preserve the cultural heritage of the Jewish people with its role as a research library supporting scholarship at JTS and other institutions around the world. We recognize that JTS will never have the resources to acquire all the rare and special materials we wish to add to the collection, particularly as the values of rare Judaica are at a historic high on the auction market. At the same time, The Library cannot allow its Special Collections to be "frozen at any given stage of development. Research opportunities are stimulated and supported through the acquisition of new primary materials.

Acquisitions for the special collections, therefore, must be focused and prioritized, and not be made merely for the sake of collecting or to be able to claim that we own a particular book or manuscript. We consider the highest priority to be materials with scholarly value. Therefore, The Library has developed a policy of seeking to acquire only materials that are unique and unpublished, or works which fill gaps in special collections. We believe these materials will provide the most valuable resources to researchers while fulfilling our broader mission to the Jewish community.

Our mission to preserve requires us to do far more than maintain our collection (through inventory control, shelf maintenance, etc.). The nature of our Special Collections creates unique obligations in this area. Consider just this one component of The Library's preservation strategy:

More damage is done to rare materials through human handling than by any other means. The more readers can gain access to images of rare materials and forego handling the materials themselves, the better they will be preserved. Hence, The Library has begun digitizing the Special Collections. The Google book project (digitization of all printed books from five great libraries) and the licensing of Otzar Ha-hochma (19,000 Hebrew books fully digitized) have enabled us to rely on others to digitize most printed books. We will therefore focus our resources on digitizing only materials unique to The Library's collection.

Again, given the range of our collection and the diversity of our constituencies, The Library's commitment to make available also takes a number of forms:

The Library's website serves as a window to the world. Expanding the website to include online tutorials and educational guides to The Library's collections will facilitate education of our constituencies.

The Library will also expand special programming, either associated with exhibits or independent. These programs, for Board Members and Library Members and for the general public, will include lectures, readings, or thematic programs tied to exhibits.

The programs to expand online access to Library resources vary according to the nature of the material to which online access is to be provided:

Free electronic materials: Links are already provided on our website. The list of links provided in this manner will constantly be reevaluated and revised.

  • At present, access to subscription-only electronic resources in The Library's collection is restricted to campus networked computers. We await successful installation of a proxy server... to facilitate off-campus access for our students, faculty, and other users.
  • E-reserves: This service is already in place and is being expanded.
  • E-periodicals and books: According to acquisitions policy.
  • Rare materials: Electronic access to rare materials can only be provided if the materials are digitized and made available online. The Library will take steps to store, back up, and manage its digital assets... Given the present direction of libraries in general, and peer Judaica collections (such as JNUL) in particular, this is a high priority. Funding will be sought for these projects.

In addition, some parts of The Library's collection can be made available through cooperative efforts. For example, The Library has contributed images to the JNUL online ketubbah and Talmud manuscript projects. On a more ambitious level, the international Friedberg Geniza Project will provide the means to grant access to images, cataloging information, and, ultimately, text of the ENA Geniza collection.

These excerpts represent only a small part of our Strategic Plan for the coming several years, but they should give you a good picture of at least some of the directions we intend to pursue. We invite you to be our partners in this crucial and exciting endeavor.

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By Steve Bernstein, Cataloger

IN JANUARY OF 2004, The Library was awarded a five-year, $1 million grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation to reclaimapproximately 35,000 books that were damaged in the fire of 1966 and to renovate the space where these books are housed. With the diligent work of the team hired to process the books, The Library is now two-thirds of the way through the cataloging. To date, approximately 29,000 bibliographic records have been added to The Library's catalog. Among the books that have been recovered are irreplaceable institutional and communal records, valuable nineteenth-century materials, and exotic language Judaica. The following are a sample of interesting books that have been returned to The Library's collection after nearly forty years:

Tellier, L. (Louis), 1900-
Atlas historique de l'Ancien Testament /
L. Tellier, X. de Göesbriand.
[Paris]: Centre d'études pédagogiques, [1962]

This is a regular everyday atlas of the Hebrew Bible with one major exception: it was used by James A. Michener to research facts for his historical novel, The Source (1964). Michener's hugely popular book examines every historical period of the Land of Israel, from pre- Biblical times on up to the travails of the modern State of Israel. The tales of each time period are framed together by an overarching story involving archaeologists and their finds at an excavation site called Tel Makor. The atlas is identified as a "source for The Source by a stamp on the half title page, which reads, "James A. Michener, King David Hotel, Jerusalem. Amsterdam: Shlomo Propes, 507 [1747]. This is a book of psalms, atonement prayers, and liturgical acrostics to be recited prior to the afternoon prayer service on every Wednesday. The supplications were most likely meant to implore God for the safety of the Jewish community in Amsterdam during the French invasion of the Netherlands in 1747. A second edition of this work was published in 1793 when the French once again invaded the Netherlands. This time, the contents of the book were to be recited after the afternoon prayer service on every other Wednesday, beginning Shushan Purim (Wednesday, February 27, 1793).

Amsterdam: Shlomo Propes, 507 [1747].

This is a book of psalms, atonement prayers, and liturgical acrostics to be recited prior to the afternoon prayer service on every Wednesday. The supplications were most likely meant to implore God for the safety of the Jewish community in Amsterdam during the French invasion of the Netherlands in 1747. A second edition of this work was published in 1793 when the French once again invaded the Netherlands. This time, the contents of the book were to be recited after the afternoon prayer service on every other Wednesday, beginning Shushan Purim (Wednesday, February 27, 1793).

Stone, J. L. = In the later days you will understand in it, an understanding - Jer. 23;20 : a mathematical translation and explanation of the Hebrew Bible / by J. L. Stone.
Boston: [s.n.], [c1897].

From a cataloger's perspective, this book is particularly interesting. It is common practice for Hebrew publishers to give a book's date of publication in terms of a chronogram, or phrase. The date is calculated by adding up the numerical value of the letters given typographical prominence in the chronogram. There is widespread debate over how such chronograms are to be transcribed into a bibliographic record. Is the entire chronogram retained? Its numeric value? Or merely the Gregorian date to which the chronogram refers? The issue is further complicated when a chronogram is contained within the book's title, as is the case here.

With this book, the letters given typographical prominence add up to 406, or 1606. Based on the quality of the paper on which the book was printed, it was clear that it was not published in that year. Apparently, in mathematically translating and explaining the Hebrew Bible, J. L. Stone developed his own form of Hebrew numerology in which letters containing a dagesh get counted twice. This resulted in the date of publication being 812, or 2052. Since the book was clearly not published forty-six years in our future (unless Mr. Stone had access to a time machine), there had to be another explanation. As it turns out, the chronogram in the book's title was not intending to communicate the date of publication at all, but rather the year in which the author believed the Messiah would arrive. In the end, the copyright date was found on the title page verso.

Norrelius, Andreas.
Diatriba de avibus esu licitis : quam ex codice sacro Talmudico Chullin et naturæ scrutinio in ulteriorem locorum Levit. XI. et Deut. XIV. illustrationem et apologiam sui Schediasmatis de arbeh hargol sal'am hagav / adornavit et suis impensis edidit Andreas Norrelius.
Upsaliæ: [s.n.], 1746.

This book marks the first usage of the subject heading "Entomophagy - Religious aspects - Judaism in The Library's catalog. It is a treatise on the consumption of insects permitted by Jewish law. Bon appétit!

Clavicula Salomonis. French.
Les véritables clavicules de Salomon: trésor des sciences occultes suives d'un grand nombre de secrets, et notamment de la grande cabale dite du Papillon Vert.
[Lille: Typ. de Blocquel, 176-?]

Clavicula Salomonis, or Solomon's Key, claims to contain magical spells made known by God to King Solomon. The legend goes that when the armies of Egypt invaded Jerusalem, one of the Pharaoh's sorcerers named Alibek stole the book and learned its spells. Alibek could not return to Egypt without spoils for his king and so - using a spell from the book - he locked the grimoire inside a box cut from a single diamond. Upon discovering his sorcerer's trickery, the Pharaoh had him killed and sent the box as a tribute to the Emperor of China. Over the course of centuries, the book somehow found its way to Europe. This edition of Clavicula Salomonis contains beautiful color illustrations.

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By Rena Borow, Aquisitions Librarian and Naomi Steinberger, Director of Library Services.

THE CURRENT GENERATION of university students, often called the "NetGen, is different from those who came before them, and this difference has enormous consequences for libraries. NetGenners are techies from birth, natives to the online environment. They Googled before they giggled and clicked the mouse before they could crawl. They walk, talk, chew gum, and surf the web all at the same time. Their lifelines are instant messaging (IM) and blogging. They are group oriented, always connected to their buddy lists, and always sending text messages. And because new technologies rarely come with directions, they are experiential learners who like to figure things out for themselves. Needless to say, NetGenners are also highly mobile.

These NetGenners are the ones doing academic research today. For these online natives, nearly all the information they seek can be found on the all-encompassing, ubiquitous, and exquisitely responsive Internet. The Internet not only responds to their inquiries, it anticipates their needs and desires and provides instant gratification at a previously unimagined speed. The expectations of this generation of students are the product of their being at home in this engaging, interactive, adaptable, controllable, empowering, and accessible web environment. This is diametrically opposed to the traditional library, which provides a very different learning environment; it is a static, text and authority based one, requiring instruction by experts who assume that learning progresses in logical, linear fashion. What we are experiencing, then, is a library built by online immigrants seeking to serve online natives. The result is a potential disconnect between the two groups.

Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President and Chief Strategist for OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), states the problem this way: "Unlike the major online presences, library systems have a low gravitational pull. They do not put the user in control, they do not adapt reflexively based on user behavior, they do not participate fully in the network experience of their users. This leaves librarians trying to connect the NetGen in an environment that is not natural for them. How can we possibly succeed in doing this?

The first step, obviously, is to maximize the "gravitational pull of the library by getting information to the NetGenner rather than waiting for the NetGenner to come to the library. At JTS, this is done through The Library's website. But success is not simply about "making available. The NetGenner needs to be lured to The Library's site. The world of the web is a highly competitive one, and we need to make our site a place where NetGen students want to go. It must be appealing, approachable, and dynamic in both design and content. Even the simplest content needs to be presented with an attractive design. The magnetic visual presence needs to be updated regularly to keep the students interested. And we need to make users aware of new content, partnerships, and global initiatives.

But creating an attractive, vibrant website is not enough. The truth is that, while the NetGenners may be sophisticated in their use of technology, they rarely have the skills necessary to identify and evaluate resources. This is where the library and the librarian come in. It is our ongoing role to provide students with the tools they need to direct their searches and evaluate the materials they discover. We need to convert students from recreational to academic web users; to identify and provide access to the most productive search engines and teach students to vet sources. These are all traditional library services, but with a new twist for the new user.

How are we at The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary reaching out to the NetGen? We work to constantly enhance our website. Subject guides in Bible, Jewish history, Jewish communal service, rabbinics, Jewish literature, and Jewish music are all available online. They include both electronic and print resources to guide students in their preferred format. JTS has recently integrated Blackboard, an online course management system, into the academic program. Utilizing Blackboard, all class assignments are posted to the course site and full texts of the assignments are available for reading any time at any location. In addition, students can now contact a reference librarian directly from their course site.

With the advent of new technologies, The Library is quickly implementing new services for users. We are currently working on additional applications for Blackboard. Blogs will bring instruction to students and support reference services. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds will soon supercede electronic mail. In the near future, we plan to send such feeds, containing varieties of library information, to subscribers, helping to support the research and reference help we provide, and enriching our outreach.

We are looking forward to delivering wireless communications and providing access to our users through logins both on and off campus. We also hope to create podcasts for tours of the physical Library space and the website. Webinars, or online instructional workshops, will replace the traditional Library orientation and podcasts of scholarly conferences and lectures will be available for our users to watch. With relatively little money and a lot of creativity and initiative, we need to shift our mindset, to redefine both our physical and virtual environments, promoting the creative use of new and traditional services. Only this way can we meet the needs of our NetGen users.

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By Dr. Eliott Kahn, Music Archivist

NAOMI STEINBERGER, Director of Library Services, loves to tell the story of how I began working in The Library twelve years ago. I was on a summer fellowship at the Leo Baeck Institute, researching my dissertation on German-Jewish émigré composer Heinrich Schalit. Schalit had had much correspondence with his lifelong friend, fellow émigré composer Herbert Fromm. The Fromm papers had been donated to The Library, and after days of searching through cartons of archival material, I asked to photocopy the Schalit letters I had found. "You can't, said Steinberger. "Why not? I asked. "Because the collection hasn't been cataloged. "Well, I said, "then I'll catalog it. Thus, twelve years ago, the JTS Music Archives were born.

Indeed, as JTS's Music Archivist, a position funded by the Rubloff Residuary Trust, I have been privileged with many wonderful experiences. Perhaps the most wonderful was my meeting with Herbert Fromm at the beginning of my tenure. As I traveled to Boston that August, more than a decade ago, I sensed this might be the inception of something uniquely wonderful. In declining health, Mr. Fromm said he would try to talk a little about his music. But both he and his wife Leni were so gracious that by my second day we had filled up three ninety-minute cassettes. Sadly, this was to be his last interview before passing away in March 1995. Information from this interview was included in An Inventory of the Herbert Fromm Collection, published by The Library in 1995. In addition, cassette copies of the entire interview may be found in the Herbert Fromm Addendum II, one of The Library's Special Music Collections.

The objectives of the JTS Music Archives/Special Music Collections have been influenced by the types of collections we receive. For example, many Jewish émigré musicians came to the United States during the twentieth century, carrying with them a culture that was soon to be destroyed by the Holocaust. Thus, the Special Music Collections contain cantors' books from late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century central and eastern Europe, Russia, and the Ukraine. We also have the complete works - frequently in manuscript - of composers of Jewish art music from Germany and Russia. We even have the organ books used by the Berlin and Munich Jewish communities on the eve of World War II. So, one of our primary objectives has become "to collect, preserve, and make available a rich musical culture that has lost its geographic home.

Here are just a few of the gems we have from Germany. The Heinrich Schalit Collection contains Schalit's manuscript scores for his Friday evening service, which premiered in Berlin's Lützowstrasse Synagoge in September 1932, just months before Hitler took power. There are letters from notable German Jewish musicologists praising the work. The collection also contains an Adon olam Schalit composed for Munich's Hauptsynagoge (Main Synagogue). Its manuscript German translation, entitled Der Herr der Welt, is by Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig. Both the Jakob Schönberg and Herbert Fromm Collections contain music that was specifically composed for and performed by the Jüdische Kulturbünde(Jewish Culture Leagues) of Berlin and Frankfurt. These organizations existed to provide employment to Jewish artists under the Nazi regime. The Herbert Fromm Addendum includes many Kulturbünde programs from 1933 to 1936.

We also have treasures in the field of hazzanut, or traditional Jewish music, from Russia, eastern Europe, and the Ukraine. These reside in our cantors' books, which are music manuscripts bound together into books by cantors or choir directors. Currently, The Library has 390 Synagogue Music Collections, many with manuscript prayer settings composed by late nineteenth-century hazzanim. Unlike those in central Europe, many of these eastern cantors and composers did not have their works published. Our Max Wohlberg, David J. Putterman, and Arnold Wecker Collections contain several of these cantors' books, and now, with the advent of our ALEPH computerized catalog, researchers can access individual pieces contained within larger books. Users can search under each composer's name (i.e., Schestapol, Wolf; Spivak, Nissan) to find several of their unpublished manuscripts.

Some of our Special Music Collections have proven to be of great historical value - particularly to European researchers. Our Solomon Rosowsky Collection yielded invaluable correspondence from violinist Joseph Achron and composer Joel Engel, which helped musicologist Dr. Jascha Nemtsov retrace the history of Russian Jewish art music in his two recently published books. The Rosowsky Collection also contains the manuscript scores of Solomon's father, Cantor Baruch Leib Rosowsky. Baruch Leib was cantor at the Great Synagogue in Riga, Latvia from 1871 to 1919, and The Library's manuscripts are the only surviving copies of his unpublished work.

The other primary objective of the JTS Music Archives is to serve as a repository for Jewish music created in the United States. The musical legacy of so many émigré musicians was transplanted and bore rich fruit on these American shores.

I like to think of our Jacob Beimel Collection as a perfect illustration of this. Beimel was born in Minsk in 1875, and at the age of twelve sang in the choir of Lithuanian Hazzan "Nissi Belzer, (Nissan Spivak, 1824-1906). He relocated to Berlin in 1903 and studied at the Royal Academy of the Arts. In Berlin he would conduct a synagogue choir, a secular Jewish choir, and publish articles and music in the Jewish journals Ost und West and Die Welt. Beimel served as Hazzan at an Orthodox shul in Copenhagen and conducted another Jewish choir there between 1911 and 1915. He emigrated to the United States and conducted the Paterson Singing Society, one of the earliest American Jewish choirs, from 1915 to 1921. In New York, Beimel became the first Cantor at Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan's Jewish Center in 1918. Here, with A.W. Binder, he created the style of congregational melodies that brought traditional Jewish music into America's synagogues. The Reform Movement's 1932 Union Hymnal published fifteen of Beimel's hymns. Beimel's collection contains all of the music he composed in Europe and America, as well as personal artifacts, such as his baton and prayer shawl.

Other treasures contained in our American Special Music Collections include: manuscript Jewish oratorios composed by Yiddish theater composers Sholom Secunda and Abe Ellstein in the Samuel Rosenbaum Collection; an 1893 script belonging to Yiddish theater diva Regina Prager in the Irene Heskes Collection; the complete musical works of the late composer Herman Berlinski in his own music collection; and, finally, all of the music commissioned and performed by Cantor David J. Putterman for his annual Contemporary Synagogue Music services at New York's Park Avenue Synagogue. This important series lasted from 1943 until 1976 and premiered new synagogue music composed by, among others, Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill, Darius Milhaud, and Mario Castelnuovu-Tedesco.

The Library's commitment to collect and preserve high quality contemporary American Jewish music is of the greatest import to future generations. While much of this music may not be performed currently in our synagogues or concert halls, the time will inevitably come when congregations and audiences will wish to hear it anew. The JTS Music Archives ensure that when that time arrives, the music of our time - and not the sound of silence - will resound.

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By David Kraemer, The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Shmuel Glick, Schocken Library, Jerusalem

THE LIBRARIES OF The Jewish Theological Seminary, in New York and Jerusalem (the Schocken Library), have recently announced the formation of a new online journal dedicated to the history of the Jewish book. This journal, entitled Quntress: An Online Journal for the History, Art, and Culture of the Jewish Book, will be published electronically on a projected annual basis, with regular updates between official publications.

The journal will be open to scholarly contributions relating to any aspect of the history of the Jewish book. For purposes of the journal, Jewish books will be defined as works written or published in Hebrew characters, in any language (Hebrew, Aramaic, Ladino, Yiddish, Judeo-Persian, etc.). Contributions may relate to scrolls or codices, in manuscript or printed form. Contributions relating to the next stage in the history of the Jewish book - electronic publishing - are also invited.

The purpose of this journal is to continue the tradition of scholarship dedicated to the history of the Jewish book that began in Europe and was then transplanted to Israel (in Kiryat Sefer). This tradition recognizes that Jewish books share a history with other books in the settings in which they were produced, but have a distinct history as well, and this history is worthy of ongoing inquiry and documentation. Studies that appear in this new journal will explore authorship, scribal matters, versions, book production, readership, book markets, the book as artifact, the sociology of the book, and so forth. The journal will explore the relationship between Jewish books and Jewish society, and the impact that books have always had on that society.

The potential irony of publishing a journal dedicated to the history of the Jewish book in electronic form is not lost on the founding editors of Quntress, but this is an irony we want to embrace. Just as the shift from the scroll to the codex or from manuscripts to printed books represented revolutionary developments in the recording and dissemination of Jewish knowledge, so too does the shift to electronic publication represent such a development. By affirming this, through the very shape the journal takes, we wish to encourage others to explore the meaning and implications of this historical shift as well, for there is no doubt the history of the Jewish book, in whatever form, will continue for centuries.

Quntress will be a refereed journal. A board of editors will evaluate submissions for their scholarly quality and contributions. Published articles will represent the best of scholarship in this field. The Library is very proud to be at the forefront of such an endeavor. Look for our announcement of the first issue of Quntress early in the new year.

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The Prato Haggadah Limited Facsimile Edition

With its richly illuminated pages and unusual history, the Prato Haggadah (Spain, ca. 1300) is one of the most significant haggadot surviving from the medieval Jewish world. In this very limited and numbered facsimile edition, the Prato Haggadah has been reproduced with meticulous detail and craftsmanship, including gold and silver leaf and a hand-sewn and crafted leather binding. The facsimile is accompanied by a volume of essays in English relating to the liturgy, artwork, and conservation of the Prato Haggadah, all by noted scholars. This facsimile will be of particular interest to collectors of hagaddot, fine rare books, and manuscripts.

For inquiries or orders, please call (212) 678-8075 or shop online.

Catalog of Hebrew Incunabula Volumes I and II

This two-volume, groundbreaking catalog documents one of The Library's jewels: the world's most complete collection of Hebrew incunabula (books printed before 1501). The catalog provides a detailed critical description of 127 editions owned by The Library, represented by 217 complete volumes or fragments. Shimon Iakerson, renowned scholar of Hebrew bibliography, provides an enlightening introduction explicating the criteria that governed the choices made by the printers of these early Hebrew works.

For inquiries or orders, please call (212) 678-8962.

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