News from the Library: Vol. 3 No. 1 (April 2007)

Coming Together at the Library

FOR THE PAST MANY MONTHS, I have been meeting regularly with David Wander, the artist who illustrated a magnificent and striking Holocaust Haggadah, “Pessach Haggadah in Memory of the Holocaust,” held in our Special Collections. We have been studying legends and commentaries relating to the Scroll of Esther. Wander is presently working on a new project—a new illuminated megillah—and he is hoping the legends will suggest themes and images he can draw upon. Our source of study has been JTS Professor Louis Ginzberg’s The Legends of the Jews, which he wrote and compiled with the close cooperation of Henrietta Szold early in the twentieth century.

On a recent morning, we were studying a legend that “fills out” Haman’s condemnation of the Jews to Ahasuerus, according to which Haman declares that Jews follow God’s law but not the king’s. In his condemnation, Haman details Jewish practice throughout the year in order to show how often Jews must excuse themselves from the common citizen’s burden of the king’s service. The reason they do so in the month of Sivan is the holiday of Shavu’ot, when, according to the legend, “they ascend to the roofs of their synagogues, and throw down apples, which are On the cover: Letter from Henrietta Szold to picked up by those below, with the words, ‘As Dr. and Mrs. Alexander Marx, these apples are gathered up, so may we be September 29, 1905. gathered together from our dispersion among

Image courtesy of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary. the heathen’ (v. 4, p. 404).” “What an amazing custom!” we said to ourselves. “Where does it come from?” I went to Ginzberg’s notes to find a reference to “Targum II” on Esther, along with a reference to “Munk.” My journey of exploration had just begun.

I logged on to The Library’s Aleph catalog to find reference to “Sefer Ani Le-dodi,” a version of the Targum with notes by one L. Munk, published in Berlin in 1876. But there was no call number. So, I called our Administrative Librarian for Technical Services (being Librarian at JTS has its privileges), Sara Spiegel, to see what she could find. Lo and behold, not one but two copies of this work had been recovered in our Goldsmith project (recovering works “lost” in our High Density area since the time of the 1966 fire), but neither was yet fully processed. She assured me she would see if someone could find a copy.  In the meantime, I logged on to our Electronic Resources to see if Otzar Ha-Hochma (19,000 digitized Hebrew books) might have a copy. Sure enough, there it was, and I was able to find the original source and explore Munk’s comments. But I was still curious: is it possible that one of our copies might be the very copy used by Ginzberg in his compilation of Legends of the Jews, and might there be marginal notes left from his work? Not two minutes later, Micha Oppenheim, our Bibliographic Control Librarian, who can find anything in The Library, walked in with a copy — in poor condition and with no marginal notes, but who knows? I still await recovery of the other copy.

But the story does not end here. As it turns out, a German company is just now exploring the possibility of publishing a German version of Legends from the original manuscript in our archives (the work was translated into English for publication). On the very same day that I was seeking to make sense of Ginzberg’s source, our archivist, Ellen Kastel, was involved in selecting samples of the German manuscript to examine the handwriting in order to determine which parts of the book were written by Ginzberg and which parts might actually have been written by Szold. I must add that it will not be difficult for us to analyze the handwriting; we have several samples of Szold’s handwriting in our collection, including a letter she wrote to our first Librarian, Alexander Marx, on the occasion of his arrival in the United States to assume his post.

If discovery is about finding the threads that connect this to that — that weave a web of references and associations that contribute to making sense of the whole — then there is no better place to discover Judaism than The Library. In fact, for us discovery is just another day’s work.

Please join us.

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Behind the Scenes of the Geniza Project

By Dr. Micki Reuveni, Project Manager, Friedberg Genizah Project at The Library

READERS OF NEWS FROM THE LIBRARY will be familiar with our cooperation with the Friedberg Genizah Project (FGP), the international project to digitize, catalog, and provide online access to Cairo Genizah fragments held in collections around the world (for our earlier report on this project, see News From The Library, volume 2, number 1 [April 2006], available on our website). In earlier reports on this project, we have emphasized the uniqueness and importance of the collection and the boon to scholarship that online access will provide. By the time you read this article, a select group of scholars will already be studying JTS’s fragments online. And soon anyone studying the Jewish life of the Mediterranean area in the Middle Ages will access the most important corpus of primary materials this way. But there is a part of this project that has not yet been described, a “hidden corner” of the work that will be extremely important to those engaged in it. To understand this “behind the scenes” labor, it is necessary to provide some background. Currently, a group of scholars working for FGP in Jerusalem is in the process of creating a detailed online catalog of the fragments based on information from a variety of sources, including the libraries that house the original documents (JTS, Cambridge, and others). The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary has supported this by providing rights to our electronic and print catalogs. But there is another kind of information, far more personal and potentially far richer, that we are also contributing.

It just so happens that hundreds, if not thousands, of notes have been written by scholars in our Genizah volumes during the last century, many of which provide essential information about the fragments to which they are attached. When E. N. Adler (ENA) donated his Genizah collection to The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary in 1923, most of the fragments were already bound, and some had handwritten notes associated with them, probably by Adler himself. Over the years, other scholars also studied the collection here in The Library and added their own notes to the fragments, mostly on the clear pages that separated one fragment from the other. These notes add a wide variety of information, such as dates, places, names, references to other manuscripts, scholars’ works and research, and many other details. Given the international importance of the collection, the notes were written in several languages, including Hebrew, English, French, and German, and sometimes even in a mixture of two languages.

Between the late 1960s and the early 1970s, most of the collection was rehoused in new albums, and all the notes were copied onto the blank divider pages that separate the Mylar sleeves. Unfortunately, the uniqueness of the original notes, which were written by some of the most important scholars in the field, was lost during the copying process. 

Moreover, it is evident that the person who copied the notes was not familiar with the area and did not understand many of them. As a result of this lack of understanding, they were written as a consecutive list, mostly next to the first fragment of each group, and not attached to the exact fragment. Despite the limitations of the copied list, we have been able to recover most of the original references. Sometimes this is a simple matter, aided by language, names, dates, and other details. In addition, we have been able to take advantage of later notes made by “younger” (perhaps we should say “later”) scholars subsequent to the re-housing. Occasionally, these later scholars refer in their notes to the old ones, adding details, correcting them, making them more precise, or even contradicting them, and finally relating them to a certain fragment. But whatever the difficulties, these notes provide essential information, and the work of the FGP catalogers  would not be complete without taking them into consideration. Simpler but no less important is the question of the original state of the individual pages.

Some of the fragments were originally connected as Quntresim, small notebooks. However, the re-housing process loosened the pages and endangered the integrity of the Quntresim. Many of them had to be separated. In order to set them in accurate sequence, it was  necessary to number the fragments and to note the attached pages. Needless to say, it is crucial to preserve this record of the original connections between the pages, particularly in light of the fragments’ new location — on the web — where they will appear without any kind of “binding” whatsoever! An important part of our behind-the-scenes work has been to preserve these “connections” and provide them to the FGP catalogers for accurate identification.

One final note on our behind-the-scenes activities: following our role in the project as “material providers,” we copied the notes exactly as they appear in the volumes, in the original language, without any interpretations or changes whatsoever, not even spelling corrections. So, if we found a certain word spelled differently on the same page (e.g., Cohen and Kohen) we left it exactly as it was. As an active researcher and scholar, I have to admit that it was often difficult to resist the temptation to “correct” mistakes or misinterpretations. But it was more important to respect the historical authenticity of that particular stage in the life of the collection.


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“Macaroni” and “Cinderella” in The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary

by Rabbi Clifford B. Miller, Senior Cataloger


PHILIP R. ALSTAT WAS A RABBI who lived alone in JTS’s Brush Dormitory throughout most of his life. For many years, Rabbi Alstat published a weekly syndicated column called “Strange to Relate.” As I recall some of the odd titles, weird authors, bizarre subjects, and strange books that have crossed my desk in The Library’s cataloging department, I feel as though I could write a similar column. Consider the examples I share below a tribute to the memory of Rabbi Alstat. 

Who is talented enough to compose a macaronic poem — a poem composed in alternating languages? We do not know the author, place, or precise date of composition of one such poem in The Library’s collection titled “Metternikh.” But we do know its background. Nearly 200 years ago, Prince Clemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich visited Lemberg, where the Jewish community honored him by publishing a macaronic poem, alternating lines in Hebrew, Yiddish, and a third language. Needless to say, it is difficult enough to compose a poem in a single language, let alone one such as this. As you can imagine, we in cataloging puzzled long and hard over this poem in three alternating languages, since all of them were printed in the Hebrew alphabet, and Polish and Ukrainian can look quite similar when transliterated into Hebrew characters! Oh, yes: the poem also mentions America! If you’d like to try to make sense of this poem yourself, see DB80.8.M5 M4 1848.

Another odd example. One would think that a Jewish collection would never have an item cataloged as “Cinderella.” But we do. “Lo nishkakhekh, ha-Golah” (“We will not forget you, O diaspora”) is a series of stamps showing life in Jewish communities around the world before World War II. These stamps were issued before 1948, in what would soon be the State of Israel, by the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet le-Yisrael). But since they were issued by a nonstate body, they were never legal postage stamps. Hence, the official subject heading for them is “Cinderella materials.” So, if you’d like to see The Library’s “Cinderella,” ask for HE6184.S42 K48 1945.

Many a Passover Haggadah is illustrated with scenes of hounds hunting hares. In German, such a scene could be described as “Jagd den Hase” (“The hunting of the hare”). Writing this phrase as it would be heard, in Hebrew letters, this would come out something like Yaknehaz, a well-known acronym for the proper sequence of benedictions at the Jewish table when there is a festival on Saturday night: Yayin (the blessing over wine), Kiddush (the blessing sanctifying the day), Ner (the blessing over the candle), Havdalah (the blessing separating a day from another), Zeman (the blessing for “time,” what we know as “shehehiyanu”). But in our collection this acronym also has another significance — as the name of an author! Yes, Yaknehaz is a pseudonym for Isaiah-Nisan Goldberg, 1858–1927, a Yiddish and Hebrew author of short stories! See PJ5053.G587 A8 to find his book Ha-Asirim, which tells of Jewish life in Lithuanian villages.

One would think that an unbound, sixteen-page, Yiddish pamphlet, published in Warsaw in 1934, is hardly worth much attention, even if its title, “Der Beytar und zayn vort tsu di Idishe Eltern” (“Betar [a Revisionist Zionist youth movement] and its message to Jewish parents”), reverberates with interesting disagreements between the generations. But the name of the author of this particular pamphlet demands attention: it was written by Menahem Begin when he was about twenty-one years old! For a view of this rare treasure, see DS150.R529 B43 1934.

Millions of Jews perished in the Holocaust, and thousands of communities were decimated. For hundreds of them, memorial books, Yizkorbikher, have been published. But I could not find any such book for Posvol, Latvia, or for Antonivke, Ukraine, where my grandparents lived. Still, I did discover a book that describes in detail the Jewish armed resistance during World War II in Kostopol, the town that my father left as a young boy (before World War I) to come to America. As I read the book, I almost felt as if my cousin Leizer Bordolej were telling me what he saw when the Nazis murdered his family and he escaped alive. Each one of us can read vivid first-hand accounts such as these online.

Authors generally take credit for works they create — and threaten to sue if anyone else copies their work! For this reason, I am struck by authors who explicitly give permission to anyone who wishes to copy their work, in whole or in part, for use in study and teaching, provided it is not copied for commercial purposes. What frustrates a cataloger in some of these cases is the modesty that causes some authors to sign only their initials and other authors to provide no name at all. Place of publication (listed on title pages) would seem to be a relatively simple and neutral matter. But there were a variety of reasons that printers misled readers in this detail. For example, some places of publication were highly prestigious so that mention of them could encourage buyers. For this reason, some printers forged places of publication, while others misled them by writing “just as good as the edition PUBLISHED IN AMSTERDAM.” Other motivations for such cases of dishonesty were government censors, licensing restrictions, or tax collectors.  Some places of publication, while seeming implausible, are actually true. When I lived in Oak Park, Michigan, I could not imagine any Hebrew books would ever be published there. Now we have discovered twenty-five rabbinic works published by Oak Park Jewish scholars. Similarly, if you visit Kearny, New Jersey, today, it is hard to believe that over 100 years ago, Ephraim Deinhard had a Hebrew press there. But he did. And there are English, Hebrew, and even Yiddish books now being published in Rowen, Wales! There are other reasons why “place of publication” might challenge the cataloger. Many books from early centuries tell us the Latin name of a city, which may be far different from today’s familiar name. Lugduni is now Lyons, France. The Ukrainians changed Lvov to Lviv and Rovna to Rivna. Lyck is Elk, Poland. The Hasidic town of Sanz is Nowy Sacz. Ofen is Budapest. And sometimes the way a city was pronounced and spelled in Yiddish is quite different from the conventional spelling used in that country. Or the Jewish name for a place is different from the more common name. Would you know that the Hebrew Bavel is the modern Baghdad, the Hebrew On and Mitzrayim are the modern Cairo, and the Yiddish Dyhrenfurth is the Polish Brzeg Dolny? The permutations of the problems and challenges are endless.

And it is this — facing and meeting the challenges — that makes cataloging fun. Imagine work where discovery is a regular part of the job! If you do, you will not wonder why I have stayed in this job for so many years.


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Library Book Endowment Funds

by Naomi Steinberger, Director of Library Services


LIBRARY BOOK ENDOWMENT FUNDS permit The Library to acquire new materials for the General Collection. For close to two decades, The Library has relied on the interest from the Book Endowment Funds for its ongoing acquisitions. These endowments, which are permanently named funds, provide guaranteed income for The Library to use each year for the acquisition of new books, music, multimedia, and other types of materials. To date, there are more than 30 book funds, with a total endowment exceeding $450,000.


An endowment consists of a minimum gift of $5,000 and can be established in honor of individuals, families, or institutions. Book funds are a wonderful way of permanently identifying with The Library and ensuring that The Library will always have adequate means of enriching its collection. Some funds are designated for general acquisitions of new materials, and some are more specific, identifying a subject area of particular interest to the donor, such as Bible, Rabbinics, music, art, etc., or for a particular format (electronic, visual materials, DVDs, etc.). The selection of the items is left to the discretion of The Library’s Acquisitions Department. Each endowment fund has a custom-designed bookplate affixed to every item acquired with that fund. Book endowments can serve as an ongoing statement of dedication to The Library and its mission, honoring or preserving the memory of friends, family, mentors, or colleagues. Over the years, The Library has acquired thousands of works through the Book Endowment Funds. These books reflect the overall breadth and scope of The Library’s collection of contemporary works in Jewish studies. The outstanding acquisitions over the years include a series of detailed archaeological maps of historical towns in Israel, Biblical atlases, and volumes relating to ancient archaeological sites in Israel, notably one on the excavations at the Temple Mount by the respected archaeologist Benjamin Mazer. The Library has also obtained art history books such as Rembrandt’s Jews, by Steven Nadler; new editions of the Talmud with English translations; books pertaining to the cultural histories of Yemenite Jews and Cuban Jews; new Israeli literature; and literary criticism of classical Hebrew literature. In Biblical studies, the collection now boasts new books on feminist interpretation of the Bible and other contemporary Biblical criticism from around the world. These examples only scratch the surface.

We invite you to help us ensure that The Library will be able to fulfill its mission to continue, in perpetuity, collecting and making accessible the cultural and literary heritage of the Jewish people. This will guarantee that we maintain our reputation as the premier collection of Judaica in North America. 


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New in The Library

• In partnership with the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, The Library has just launched a new website ( built from images of The Library’s materials and educational documentation supplied primarily from The Davidson School, dedicated to the seder and Passover. This site is intended to serve as a resource for teachers at all levels of Jewish education. The project is supported by George Blumenthal. See The Library’s homepage for details.

• With the support of the Morris and Beverly Baker Foundation, the climate-control system in the Rare Book Room is being replaced with a new, up-to-date system. In fact, the new system may be up and running as you read this piece.

• After more than twenty years, the roof over the Special Collections area (including the Rare Book Room) has been replaced. This assures that we will not have to worry about leakage or floods from inclement weather • The main floor of The Library has a new look, with new (and very attractive!) carpet. Users have immediately benefited from an environment that is now more pleasant and dignified.

• With a gift from the Harry and Sylvia Rebell Philanthropic Fund, we will acquire digital assets-management software (DigiTool) and hardware. This will allow us to organize our growing digital assets and begin to provide superior online access, including enhanced description, organization, and images of our digitized resources. Implementation of the system will begin in the spring.

• We have received a grant from METRO (Metropolitan New York Research Library Council) to support the digitization and creation of a website dedicated to our collection of wedding poems. These documents provide important insights into the social and religious history of Jews in Europe (primarily Italy) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

• The Friedberg Genizah Project website, featuring images of our Cairo Genizah fragments, is now available to a select group of scholars. Once the site is running without a hitch, it will be opened to the world at large. This will provide scholars with online access to an unparalleled historical resource.

• We have processed 30,000 books as we enter the third year of the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation project dedicated to reclaiming part of the third floor High Density collection from the 1966 fire. We have committed to processing 35,000 books. We have uncovered thousands of gems, including many books from the sixteenth century. As we continue to progress on this work, we turn to planning the reconfiguration and refurnishing of the area so it will provide new climate-controlled space for archives and rare materials.

• The Prato Haggadah facsimile, the production of which was supported by the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation, is now available. This magnificent facsimile will be of interest to libraries with rare collections, art history and Jewish studies departments, and collectors of rare Judaica. If you are interested in purchasing a copy for your personal collection or for your favorite library, please call Hector Guzman at (212) 678-8075.

• The Prato Haggadah exhibit (in facsimile) is now open to the public at The Las Vegas Museum of Art (March 6 through April 22, 2007). This is part of The Library’s effort to travel select exhibits to venues around the country.

• Eighty-five JTS courses are participating in Blackboard electronic reading for spring 2007. We have posted more than 800 articles for this semester alone. As a result, in-person visits to The Library have gone down by 15–20 percent in the course of the semester. This trend is also supported by our expanding electronic resources, including the online version of the new Encyclopedia Judaica.

• A new version and interface of The Library’s online catalog (; click on ALEPH), became available in February. It utilizes new features, simpler searching, better sorting, and more information about our collection.

• Library electronic resources that are restricted to use by JTS students and faculty are now available from home (or elsewhere, to any computer with online access) via the Library@Home program.

• Otzrot Lashon: The Hebrew Philology Manuscripts and Genizah Fragments in The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, by Aharon Maman, is newly published and available for purchase. This catalog, in Hebrew, lists and describes 722 manuscripts and Geniza fragments in Hebrew philology — grammars, glossaries, dictionaries, and encyclopedias from The Library’s collection. It is part of The Library’s series of scholarly catalog publications supported by the Rubloff Residuary Trust.

• We continue to partner with the Summit School, a special-education school in Queens, New York, and their work-study program. This program enables their students to spend one morning per week assisting us in The Library. The Summit School students help us with book processing, clearing work tables in the public areas, and shelving books. The partnership has benefited the school and The Library, and it enriches the students’ experiences.

• The Library has instituted a new policy to be more “environmentally friendly” (and thereby to help fight global warming). We will shut off lights where- and whenever possible and shade windows from direct sunlight in the summer. This will be a small contribution to the effort, but every little bit helps.

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