JTS Library Awarded Grant to Make Hundreds of Archival Collections Publicly Available

The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) has launched “Grounded in Wisdom: Expanding Access to Jewish-American Archival Collections,” made possible through a generous grant of more than $70,000 from the National Archives for the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This one year project will provide online access describing 418 archival collections—dating from the late 19th through the 20th centuries and encompassing multiple formats including documents, drawings, artifacts, photographs, slides, audio recordings, films, musical scores, and manuscripts—by enabling The Library to hire two archivists to collect and standardize all documentation and upload it to an archival management system that will allow it to be easily searched and shared with the scholarly community and the general public.

These collections comprise what were originally three separate archives—The JTS Library Archives, the JTS Music Archives, and the Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism Archives. An individual collection can consist of a few significant items or can be as large as 300 archival boxes. Notable collections include the personal papers of Judah Nadich, the first adviser on Jewish Affairs to General Dwight Eisenhower; Israel Rosenberg, a founder of the Central Relief Committee of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Fund whose relief efforts helped numerous devastated Jewish communities after World War II; art and Judaica collector Michael M. Zagayski; and Morton Smith, the often controversial professor of Ancient History at Columbia University whose scholarship drew connections between early Christianity and magical rituals. Also of note are the papers of Solomon Schechter (1856–1915the architect of the American Conservative Jewish movement and the founder of the United Synagogue of America.

“The archives are the most frequently consulted part of the special collections at JTS,” said Naomi Steinberger, director of Library Services. “Providing scholars and the general public with descriptions of the collections from The Library’s discovery tool and on WorldCat will help all users pinpoint what they are looking for with greater ease.”

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), supports a wide range of activities to preserve, publish, and encourage the use of documentary sources, created in every medium ranging from quill pen to computer, relating to the history of the United States. Since 1964, the NHPRC has funded projects to document democracy. Over 4,200 grants have been awarded to state and local archives, colleges and universities, libraries and historical societies, and other nonprofit organizations.

The JTS Library houses the greatest collection of Judaica outside Israel, including nearly 11,000 Hebrew manuscripts; 43,000 fragments from the Cairo Geniza; 30,000 rare books, including the world’s largest collection of Hebrew incunabula; and more than 400 archival collections comprising of 8,000 linear feet. Its vast collections are broadly viewed via expanding digital portals, revolving on-site exhibitions and rare-book presentations, and through loan programs at outstanding museums around the world.