JTS Library Awarded “Recordings at Risk” Grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources

May 6, 2021, New York, NY

The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) has been selected to receive a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). This project is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This generous grant will support “Disappearing Jewish Cultures and Traditions of the Non-Western World: Digitizing Film Footage and Audio Recordings from the Johanna L. Spector Papers and Audio-Visual Materials – Phase II.” 

This unique collection documents the nearly extinct musical and communal traditions of several non-Western Jewish cultures in India, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Armenia, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Recorded between 1960 and 1989 during the making of  Spector’s ethnographic documentaries, the materials are an unused treasure trove that sheds light on the religious ceremonies and traditions of people before dispersal from their native lands, such as the Cochin Jews of India, Yemenite Jews, and the nearly extinct Samaritans of Israel.

JTS was one of 17 institutions to receive this award. The grant provides funding to digitize this special collection using state-of-the-art technologies at The MediaPreserve, a trusted organization that provides audiovisual preservation. The JTS Library previously received a grant in 2018 from CLIR for Phase I of digitization of the Spector film archival collection, which involved digitizing filmed dailies, workprints, and recorded audio content. The public can watch the films and listen to recordings from the collection online.

Naomi Steinberger, JTS project director, says “We’re so grateful for this generous award from CLIR. We know that the footage will help build understanding of worldwide Jewish traditions and cultures and has already contributed to new scholarship in ethnography, ethnomusicology, history, and anthropology.”  

The JTS Library houses the greatest collection of Judaica outside Israel, including nearly 11,000 Hebrew manuscripts; 43,000 fragments from the Cairo Genizah; 30,000 rare books, including the world’s largest collection of Hebrew incunabula; and more than 400 archival collections comprising 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 to outstanding museums around the world.


About The Jewish Theological Seminary

JTS is a preeminent institution of Jewish higher education, training thoughtful, innovative leaders—rabbis, cantors, educators, lay leaders, and scholars—who strengthen our communities with a vision of Judaism that is deeply grounded in the Jewish past and thoroughly engaged with contemporary society. JTS also provides high-caliber lifelong learning and professional development to our alumni, adult learners, and Jewish communities throughout North America. Through its Library, JTS preserves and makes accessible to students and scholars throughout the world the greatest collection of Judaica in the Western Hemisphere.

About The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. To learn more, visit www.clir.org and follow CLIR on Facebook and Twitter.