Between the Lines: Vol. 17 No. 1 (Spring 2004)


People of Faith, Land of Promise

An Exhibition in Celebration of the 350th Anniversary of Jewish Life in America

This extraordinary exhibition, sponsored by Friends of The Library, traces the historical journey of Jews who settled in the New World. It showcases personal artifacts and communal treasures from The Library's rich collection of manuscripts, printed books, pamphlets,documents, newspapers, prints and postcards. The exhibition features more than 100 extraordinary artifacts depicting Jewish cultural and religious life in America from the seventeenth through the first quarter of the twentieth century. Highlights include the first English translation of a Jewish prayerbook, published in 1776, and a Jewish New Year's letter of 1899 documenting the tradition of sending High Holiday greetings.

The exhibition underscores the various ways in which uprooted communities, such as the Jewish community in America, reconstitute themselves in a new land. It also portrays the challenges of maintaining and reshaping Jewish identity in the face of assimilation and charts the creation of fraternal and charitable organizations alongside religious institutions, as well as the growth of associations of people in business, the arts and politics. Further, the exhibit reflects the hope that sustained the Jewish people in their journey to a free society, their dedication to negotiating the cultural challenges of a new American ethos and their commitment to preserving their own identities in the process.

People of Faith, Land of Promise is on display from May 5-September 7, 2004 in the Goldsmith Gallery, and on the second and fifth floors of The Library building, Sunday, noon-5:00 p.m. and Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. 


The Library Board Holds Gala Event at Neue Galerie

It was an evening of historic documents and exciting contemporary art. On April 19, 2004, The Library Board held a gala exhibit and reception, titled We the People, at the Neue Galerie in New York City. The highlight of the event was the exhibition of original printed copies of the United States Constitution and the earliest draft version of the Bill of Rights from the House of Representatives, two documents which have never before been on display in New York City. These historical treasures are from the private collection of Dorothy Tapper Goldman, Chair of The Library Board of Overseers.

The evening's events also included a silent auction, which provided guests with the opportunity to bid on exclusive Broadway tickets, art, celebrity dinners and behind-the-scenes tours of the Supreme Court. The event allowed participants to privately view the renowned collections of the Neue Galerie. A cocktail reception was held at the Galerie's elegant Café Sabarsky.

The event was organized for the inauguration of the Acquisitions Fund for Rare Materials, which will ensure The Library's ability to continue to build and enhance its world-class collection.


From the Editor's Desk: A Note of Thanks

The first issue of Between the Lines appeared in the spring of 1988 with the goal of documenting the activities of the newly formed Friends of The Library and serving as a vehicle for publicizing the treasured holdings of The Library. As I leave my position as Editor of the newsletter and Director of Friends of The Library, a post I have been privileged to hold for sixteen years, I would like to both express thanks and acknowledge the support of many who helped establish both a creative Friends organization and a unique publication.

Friends of The Library evolved over the years from a small group with limited resources into a vibrant organization. Initially focused on a variety of cultural and scholarly programs such as exhibits, lectures, book parties, films and concerts, it later expanded into a publication program of exhibition catalogs, posters, facsimiles, brochures and bookplates. This expansion was subsequently followed by a product development program that produced notecards, calendars and stationery items, based on images from The Library's collection, which were offered for sale online and at The Library.

With increased funds yielded by these efforts, Friends of The Library purchased display cases and kiosks for an expanding exhibition program, supported The Library's conservation department, acquired rare items for The Library's Special Collection, funded the acquisition of the latest electronic resources and supported professional staff development.

These efforts could not have been accomplished without the support of the former Librarian, Mayer Rabinowitz, who gave me both the opportunity and the freedom to create, and Francine Klagsbrun, the first Chair of Friends of The Library, whose commitment to Jewish life and values and her ongoing financial generosity facilitated many of these accomplishments. I am indebted to both of them for a wonderful, enjoyable and productive time of working for a common goal.

The multifaceted functions of Friends of The Library's projects required the cooperation of many. I am thankful to have worked with accomplished Library and JTS staff as well as talented designers and printers, whose input was vital to the achievements throughout the years. My thanks to members of the Newsletter Committee who have been part of Between the Lines from its inception; to scholars who have contributed to this publication; to The Library's staff in the Art, Special Collection, Conservation, Public Services, Reference, and Technical Services Departments, all of whom have contributed their expertise in a spirit of friendship, good will and expert advice.

My best wishes for The Library for continued growth, "from strength to strength."

B'Shalom,

Rickie Weiner


From Cards to Computers: Retrospective Conversion Project at The Library

The conversion of The Library’s card catalog from paper to digital format was completed during February 2004. This monumental project began fourteen years ago with the installation of an online library system to manage library holdings. It started with a small database, which has grown to include a robust 300,000 items. The project was accomplished with the aid of seven grants from METRO (Metropolitan New York Library Council), additional funds from the Rubloff Residuary Trust, and a diligent staff.

The slow and cumbersome process of manually cataloging, filing cards and searching for information is now fast, efficient, user-friendly and accessible with the click of a mouse. Readers can search The Library’s holdings from their homes or offices, anywhere in the world, twenty-four hours a day.

A special library staff luncheon was held on March 11 to celebrate the completion of this project. A witty and humorous presentation by The Library’s cataloger, Rabbi Clifford Miller, ended with the entire staff singing an interpretation of the well-known poem from the Sabbath liturgy, Deror Yikra. The Hebrew word “deror” means “freedom,” but its sound rings like the English word “drawer,” as in: “The card catalog fills hundreds of drawers.” “This,” said Rabbi Miller, “is a song of celebration of our emancipation from the typed card catalog.” 


From the Acting Director

This was an extraordinarily productive year in The Library. At the forefront of all initiatives was the Library’s mission to collect, preserve and make available the cultural heritage of the Jewish people. The dedicated Library staff continues to provide users from six continents with outstanding service utilizing our worldclass collections. Highlights of this year’s major accomplishments are outlined below.

Upgrading the online catalog to a new version of the ExLibris ALEPH500 software was completed. This improvement along with the completion of the retrospective conversion makes it easier to find all library materials in Latin and Hebrew characters.

With a $1 million dollar grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, we hired additional staff and began work on processing and cataloging 35,000 books salvaged from the devastating Library fire of 1966. Everything will be made accessible to library uses including more than 2,000 rare books that have so far been identified.

Under the guidance of Joseph Rubin, a member of The Library Board of Overseers, and with the help of The Library’s Administrative Council leadership team, a five-year strategic plan was developed. Students, faculty and members of the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee were instrumental in its development. The final version of the plan was submitted to The Library Board of Overseers in March 2004 and implementation of key elements has begun.

With a generous grant of $23,000 from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture The Library will preserve documents from the Solomon Schechter Archives which is rich in personal correspondence, speeches and addresses detailing the early years of JTS. Documents dating from as early as 1870 will be microfilmed and re-housed in acid-free boxes and folders.

Digitization of The Library’s vast collection of Genizah fragments has begun in liaison with the Saul Lieberman Institute for Talmudic Research. The project’s photography has been funded by The Blumenthal Family Foundation.

This academic year The Library focused on expanding customer service. Workshops were held evaluating current services and assessing new practices for providing customer service to our users. Outcome from these workshops included processes for improving our service. As an added value, the workshops provided team building for the Library staff.

The Library also participated in a number of prominent exhibitions in the metropolitan New York area. They include: My Grandparents, My Parents and I by Frida Kahlo: A Painting in Context, Jewish Museum, New York, September 5, 2003 – January 4, 2004; The Beauty of Sacred Texts: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Institute of Judeao-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, October 31 to December 17, 2003; Kabbalah: Mysticism in Jewish Life at the Herbert & Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica at Temple Emanuel, New York, October 28, 2003 – January 31, 2004; and Reinventing the Wheel: Volvelles and the Magnificent Art of Circular Charting, Grolier Club, New York, February 24 – April 24, 2004.

I am extraordinarily proud of our accomplishments in leading The Library as I step down from the position of Acting Director on June 30, 2004.

Naomi Steinberger


Friends of The Library Support Publication Program and Special Projects

Funds provided by Friends of The Library have facilitated the purchase of an online version of the Humanities Full Text database.

The Humanities Full Text database is published by H.W. Wilson, a well-known publisher of abstracts and indexes. The online version is the most comprehensive resource available in the humanities. It includes full text plus abstracts and bibliographic indexing of the most noted scholarly sources in the humanities, as well as numerous lesser known but important magazines.

Stipends granted by Friends of The Library were given to fund staff members who are attending the thirty-ninth annual Convention of the Association of Jewish Libraries to be held in New York from June 20–23. Seven members of The Library will be presenting papers at the conference, while others helped organize the program or will chair sessions.

Friends of The Library also provided funds for the purchase of manuscripts offered for sale at an auction held this spring in Jerusalem:

Regulation Ledger from Ashkenazi Communities: an important historic ledger, it includes more than 500 multifaceted, important ordinances in numerous significant Jewish communities in Europe between 1650–1742.

Halakhic Discourses Innovations in the Handwriting of Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Girundi of Padua, circa 1850: Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Girundi was Rabbi of Padua, a Torah scholar, Italian poet, researcher and author of the book Toldot Gidolei Yisrael V’geoni Italia (Trieste, 1853).

Zichronoth R. Dov Ber Me’Bolechow (1723–1805): Dov Ber Bolochower, a scholar and leader of the Bolochow community, was one of the most important Hebrew memoirists of his time. The manuscript, written in eighteenth-century cursive handwriting, contains many invaluable economic and social details for the study of eighteenth-century eastern European history.


Library Publications

The Library's publications are available for sale and can be viewed at the library shop. For further information, please call (212) 678-8962.

People of Faith, Land of Promise

The Library is pleased to announce the publication of the exhibition catalog People of Faith, Land of Promise. The 120-page, fully illustrated catalog, produced and funded by Friends of The Library, was published on the occasion of the 350th commemoration of Jewish settlement in America. It draws upon The Library’s rich collection of manuscripts, printed books, pamphlets, archival documents, prints, postcards and newspapers.

A Discerning Eye

A catalog listing some forty items and featuring highlights from the recent exhibition A Discerning Eye: Highlights from the Judaica Collection of Daniel M. Friedenberg has been produced by Friends of The Library. A reception in honor of Daniel Friedenberg, who donated the items on display to The Library, was held on March 16, 2004.

Calendar for 2004–2005/Jewish Year 5765

Friends of The Library, in cooperation with Universe Publishing, a division of Rizzoli International Publications, announce the publication of A Calendar for 2004–2005/Jewish Year 5765. The calendar includes images from The Library’s collection that depict the religious, social and cultural development of Jewish life in America from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries.


Masthead

Library Board of Overseers

  • Beverley Baker
  • Ted Bernard-Cutler
  • Joan Brodsky
  • Marilyn Cohen
  • Suzanne Cohen
  • Leonard Florence
  • Ruth O. Freedlander
  • Dorothy Tapper Goldman
  • Howard Goldstein
  • Saul Gottlieb
  • Leslie M. Hammel
  • Ruth Hendel
  • Louise Holland
  • Rhonda Jacobs Kahn
  • Alexander Kaplen
  • Gershon Kekst
  • Harry Laufer
  • Marvin Levitties
  • Alfred Levy
  • Paula Mandell
  • Audrey Merves
  • Stanley Sanders
  • Harry Schick
  • James L. Schlesinger
  • Frances Schor
  • Judith Selwyn
  • Harris Shapiro
  • Romie Shapiro
  • Arnon Siegel
  • Beatrice Weidman
  • Carole L. Weidman
  • David Wingate
  • Philip Zaro
  • Noel E. Zeller
  • Linda Drogin Zimmerman

Contributors to this issue

  • Dorothy Tapper Goldman
  • Sharon Lieberman Mintz
  • Jay Rovner
  • Ilana Siegel
  • Sara Spiegel
  • Nellie Stavisky
  • Naomi Steinberger
  • Rickie Weiner

Newsletter Committee

  • Tzivia Atik
  • Rena Borow
  • Naomi Steinberger
  • Rickie Weiner, Editor

For information, please contact:

The Collection

The collection includes over 375,000 volumes, 25,000 rare books, 11,000 manuscripts, 13,000 reels of microfilms (primarily of Hebrew manuscripts), 750 periodicals subscriptions, 1000 video recordings, 4,000 sound recordings, 3,000 musical scores and CD-ROMs. Strengths are in rabbinics (Talmud and cognate literature), Bible and its Jewish commentaries, liturgy, and medieval and modern Hebrew literature. In addition, there are 40,000 Cairo Genizah fragments, archives of modern Jewish history, prints, photographs and illuminated documents, including the largest collection of marriage contracts in the world.