The newly established Library Board of Overseers held its inaugural meeting on December 6, 1994 at JTS. Francine Klagsbrun, chair of the library board, offered greetings and outlined the central tasks of the board. Chancellor Ismar Schorsch, in his address to the newly appointed members, stated that the library was established with the goal of serving the needs of the broader Jewish community both at home and abroad, as well as the JTS community. Its mission, said Dr. Schorsch, is to preserve the collective memory of the Jewish people. The major responsibility of the library board is to help maintain and enhance the collections and work of the library. The Librarian, Dr. Mayer Rabinowitz, reviewed the library's history, its present needs and goals.
In-depth tours of library departments were arranged for board members. In expressing comments after the tours, board members stated that they were impressed with the range of services, the variety of state-of-the art equipment used in the library's modern facility, and the quality of the library personnel. Many demonstrated special interest and delight in viewing items in the rare book room at the library and expressed the desire to help the library in publicizing and supporting exhibitions showcasing its treasures.
Dr. Moshe Greenberg speaks to Chancellor Ismar Schorsch Dr. Moshe Greenberg, professor of Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and recipient of the Israel Prize in Bible, 1994, delivered the third annual Gerson D. Cohen Memorial Lecture to an audience of more than twenty-five people in the Feinberg Auditorium at JTS. The lecture, sponsored by the Friends of The Library , took place on Wednesday, March 22. Dr. Greenberg spoke on "Moral Problems Arising from the Bible: An Israel Perspective." Dr. Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of JTS, introduced Dr. Greenberg, and Francine Klagsbrun, chairperson of The Library Board of Overseers offered greetings and read from the writings of the late Gerson D. Cohen. A reception was held in Alperin Lobby following the lecture.
The library has recently acquired the complete Gunzberg Collection on microfilm from the Russian State Library in Moscow. The collection covers a number of fields in traditional Jewish learning. This is the first time that scholars in the West have had access to this collection.
The collection, including 1900 manuscripts, was about to be purchased by JTS in the early 1900s, but the outbreak of World War I prevented the conclusion of the transaction. In 1917, Russian Zionists purchased the collection for the Jewish National Library in Jerusalem, but before it could be shipped abroad it was confiscated by the new revolutionary government and presented to the Publichnaia Biblioteka (now, the Russian State Library) in Moscow where it is still held.
The Louis Ginzberg Microfilm Center at the library houses an outstanding collection of rabbinic manuscripts and rare books on microfilm. The center offers access to the complete Hebrew manuscript collection of the British Museum, most of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah in the Cambridge University Library and a large portion of the Hebrew manuscript collection in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Vatican Library in Rome, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Kaufmann Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Science in Budapest, the Hebrew collections of the library in Parma, Italy, the Austrian National Library in Vienna and the Biblioteca Escorial in Madrid.
"Just a few years ago," says Rabbi Debra Reed Blank, a Ph.D. candidate at JTS and a frequent user of the microfilm center, "you had to physically travel world-wide to do research on manuscripts. Today, via microfilm, you can browse through the great libraries of the world in minutes to obtain needed information."
To illustrate the advantages of having access to microfilms at the library, Rabbi Blank described the scope of the work relating to her PhD. dissertation in liturgy: "There are sixteen known manuscripts in the world of the text on which I am working. Four manuscripts are available at the library's rare book room, two are available in print and eight are accessible here at the Louis Ginzberg Microfilm Center. Had I been engaged in this research just a few years ago, I would have had to travel to the libraries at Oxford, Parma, the British Museum, etc., a process which offers no guarantee of access and may have taken years to accomplish. Now I can browse through the material in twenty minutes and copy it here on a microfilm copy machine. The only drawback in having the material handy here at one spot in the library is that I have no excuse to travel to Parma, Oxford and London..."
"An added advantage," says Rabbi Blank, "is the interaction with other scholars at the microfilm center. "I am astonished at the number of scholars I meet here from other institutions, both in the metropolitan New York area and throughout the world, especially in the summer. I am in awe at the scope of the projects they work on and the quality and quantity of what is available here. Since material on microfilm is grouped on a reel twenty feet long and I have to browse through it in order to reach my own material, I am constantly overwhelmed at the variety of other "undiscovered" texts accessible here. I could only compare the treasures held in the Louis Ginzberg Microfilm Center to the basement of a fine museum where many treasures are yet to be exposed and identified in order to be truly appreciated."
Synagogue and school groups often visit the library to see some of the treasures from the library's rare book and manuscript collection. Shortly before Passover, a group came on such a visit from the Yorktown Jewish Center. In anticipation of the holiday, Edith Degani, Assistant Librarian, showed the group a selection of haggadot. Among them was the Rainbow Haggadah, a slim volume printed in Germany in 1945 for the use of men in the 42nd (Rainbow) Infantry Division. On seeing it, a gentleman seated in the front excitedly jumped to his feet, exclaiming "That was my division! I was there!" Suddenly, what had been a piece of history came alive and became very real. A week later, Lester Klein, our visitor, sent the following letter, together with his wartime picture to Mrs. Degani.
The letter sent by Chaplain Eli A. Bohnen addressing Professor Alexander Marx, Librarian at JTS at the time, is dated nearly exactly fifty years to the date of Mr. Klein's letter addressed to Mrs. Degani:
The Friends of The Library have purchased the Montefiore Collection, a 589 volume collection published for the first time and available only on microfiche, to be added to the library's current extensive microfilm and microfiche collection.
The Montefiore Manuscript Collection was established by Sir Moses Montefiore and transferred on permanent loan from the Montefiore Endowment to Jews' College, London in 1899. The manuscripts, dating from the twelfth century, are essential reading for Jewish scholars worldwide. Written by a variety of authors from Europe and the Mediterranean, they provide unique insights into a range of subjects, including: Bible - text, translation and commentary; homilies, Talmud, halakhah, liturgy, philosophy, kabbalah, poetry, polemics, grammar, lexicography, science, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, history, tales and fables, magic, astrology, letters and documents and items relating to Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885).
The collection, in thirty volumes, also contains the five censuses of Jews in Palestine conducted between 1839 and 1875 at the request of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore. These volumes list the name, age, occupation, economic and family status, year of arrival and place of origin for thousands of Jewish inhabitants of the land that would become the modern State of Israel. This represents an invaluable source of information for Jewish genealogical studies.
The Friends also purchased the entire edition of the Jerusalem Post, 1988-1994, on CD-ROM for the library.
A first edition of Nathan of Hanover's Abyss of Despair and Pinkas Chmielnek, two items from the library's collection, were on exhibit from September, 1994 - March, 1995 at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin and the Stadtmuseum in Munich. They were exhibited as part of the tour of The Art of Memory exhibition, which originated at the Jewish Museum in New York.
The library lent eight items from its collection to Memory and the Middle Ages, a major exhibition taking place at Boston College Museum of Fine Arts February 16 - May 21, 1995. Among the most valuable items on loan from the library were a bible begun in Toledo, Spain in 1492 and finished in Constantinople in 1497; a leaf from the earliest extant illustrated Haggadah, Constantinople, 1515; an extremely rare edition of Abudarham, Fez, 1516 and the Ferrara Bible, 1553. These objects from the library's collection demonstrate the role memory played in Jewish liturgy and historiography, both before and after the expulsion from Spain in 1492.
Memory and the Middle Ages examined, in an interdisciplinary context, the role of memory in medieval objects and imagery. This exhibition was held to coincide with and provide a focal point for the international meeting of the Medieval Academy of America held in Boston in April 1995.
The Friends of The Library and the Consulate General of Israel in New York, sponsored a screening of Altalena, a documentary film which follows the ship Altalena, from its port of departure in France, in 1948, to its arrival off the coast of Tel-Aviv, where it was fired on and destroyed.
Ilana Tsur, writer, producer and director of the documentary, discussed issues presented in this controversial film, following the screening. The program took place on Tuesday, May 16 in the Wingate Auditorium at the library.
A multi-tiered exhibition featuring a selection of prints from the holdings of the Solomons Collection opened on April 6 at the library. The prints are a fascinating social and pictorial record of attitudes towards the Jews in a country that was long heralded as among the most liberal in eighteenth-century Europe.
Professor Frank Felsenstein, co-curator of the exhibition and author of the newly published book Anti-Semitic Stereotypes: A Paradigm of Otherness in English Popular Culture 1660-1830, spoke in the Mendelson Convocation Center prior to the reception and preview of the exhibit. The exhibition and the reception were sponsored by the Friends of The Library.
The Jew as Other: A Century of English Caricatures, 1730-1830 will be on display on the first, second, and fifth floors of the library from April 6 through July 31, 1995.
The library has received the working art library of the renowned Judaica collector, Michael Zagayski. The collection, donated to the library by Eli Wilner, the great-nephew of Michael Zagayski, consists of several hundred volumes including many extremely rare catalogs of the earliest exhibitions and collections of Jewish art. Zagayski's library also contains an impressive selection of books on Jewish painters such as Chagall, Pissarro and Modigliani. With this magnificent donation, the library has acquired an extraordinary assemblage of materials that will greatly facilitate research in many areas of Jewish art.
The Friends of The Library sponsored a reception in Alperin Lobby on Tuesday, June 13, in celebration of books published this year by JTS scholars. Dr. Menahem Schmelzer, Provost, and Francine Klagsbrun, chairperson of The Library Board of Overseers, offered greetings and congratulatory statements. Chancellor Ismar Schorsch delivered remarks marking this special occasion.
The following is the list of featured publications: