About the Library
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The Library of JTS is one of the greatest Judaic studies libraries in the world. In addition to its 400,000 circulating volumes, the Library has an exceptional collection of rare materials, including the world’s largest collection of Hebrew manuscripts, 43,000 fragments from the Cairo Genizah, extensive archives, and much more.
The Library of JTS serves JTS students and faculty, as well as scholars and researchers around the world. Whatever your position or interest, we are happy to serve you.
History of the Library
Founded in 1893, the nucleus of the Library was formed by contributions from outstanding private collectors and philanthropists, including Cyrus Adler, Mortimer L. Schiff, Felix Warburg, Louis Marshall, Mayer Sulzberger, Elkan Nathan Adler, and Hyman G. Enelow.
Alexander Marx, who served as chief librarian for 50 years (1903–1953), was responsible in large part for collecting the material and making it available to readers. His devoted leadership created what is recognized today as the greatest Jewish library in the Western Hemisphere.
In the 1930s, recognizing that European Jewry was threatened and that America offered Jews and Judaism a place to grow, the Library made its goal to become the National Museum of the Jewish Book. It adopted a policy of collecting and preserving the totality of the Jewish cultural experience. The books that were acquired during this period remain in the Library’s collections. The Library’s objects became the foundation of New York’s Jewish Museum.
The Library suffered a disastrous fire on April 18, 1966. The fire occurred on the upper floors of the Library tower, where most of the books were housed. Seventy thousand volumes were destroyed, and every other book in the tower was damaged by fire, smoke, or water. Fortunately, rare books and manuscripts were kept in another area and were spared the damage.
Thanks to the exceptional leadership of Seminary Librarian, Professor Menahem Schmelzer, service to readers was resumed in September 1966. A temporary, prefabricated building was erected to hold some of the books, while others were housed in a warehouse at a distance from the campus. The staff struggled in these improvised quarters until July 5, 1983, when a new building was completed and opened to the public. This facility served the JTS community and the public until the summer of 2015.
On September 1, 2015, the Library opened in temporary quarters on JTS’s campus, anticipating the construction of a new and much improved Library for the 21st century. As libraries, services, and technologies have changed, so has the JTS Library. Despite challenges posed by the Covid pandemic, the new Library opened in 2021—and its new Rare Book Room and exhibition gallery in 2022—providing access to users far and wide. The new Library is an active hub for classes, researchers, tour groups, and many more, all while protecting and preserving the rare gems in its collection.