About the Library

Update Fall 2021: The new Library of JTS is now open to students, faculty, and staff, as well as those authorized in advance to enter the JTS campus. Learn about current usage guidelines and safety policies.

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.

Dr. David Kraemer describes the meaning and impact of the JTS Library, and the architects of our 21st Century Campus discuss their vision.

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 fifty 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.

Despite this disaster, 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. The new Library will be second to none in its capacities, services, and, most important, resources, both rare and contemporary.