Librarian's Lobby
February 2002
by Daniel D. Stuhlman

I have two examples of how this column has an influence far beyond the time you first read it. A couple of weeks ago a rabbi came to me remembering the column on the story of the two brothers that appeared in this column on February 1997. He asked for a reference because he heard a rosh yeshiva misquote a midrash "containing" this story. Via e-mail I received a question about the column on special Purim celebrations (February 2000). I pointed the person in the right direction.

American Judaica Collections part three

In the previous column I described five libraries with more than 200,000 Judaica volumes. Let me put this number in perspective. Books in Print keeps track of all books published in the United States for the trade (i.e., books that may be sold in stores(1)). The current number of in-print titles in the 2001-2002 Books in Print (9-vol) is 1,721,792. The web site provides access to 4.26 million in-print and out-of-print books, print on demand items, e-books, spoken-word audio, and video products. The company that produces Books in Print does not keep track of the number of Judaica titles.

Descriptions of collections

Most of these descriptions are based on the web pages from the individual libraries.

Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)

The Judaica collection is part of the Divinity School Library. This is an ecumenical school under direction of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust. They claim to have one of the best collection in the mid-south region. The donation from the Zimmerman family allowed for significant expansion and enrichment of this important collection.

The Zimmerman Judaica Collection, now numbering well more than 10,000 titles, was begun in 1945 with the gift of the professional library of Professor Ismar Elbogen. In 1991 they acquired the collection of Professor Nahum N. Glatzer as part of the Zimmerman gift. Professor Glatzer's collection broadened the scope of the collection and included manuscripts relating to Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Leopold Zunz. The university has a small Jewish studies program offering only a minor (15 credit hours).

University of Michigan Library's Judaica and Hebraica Collection (Ann Arbor)

The Judaica holdings collection originated in the library's support of research and instruction in ancient Near Eastern and Biblical studies. Over the years, the Judaica and Hebraica components developed into a more broadly defined and independent collection that supports the Jewish studies program. The Library's Judaica collection contains approximately 45,600 titles in Hebrew and Yiddish and 35,000 in English and European languages. The collection strengths are modern Hebrew literature, history of Israel, Judaism, and Bible studies. Annually, the library adds approximately 2500 titles to the collection. The Division's permanent Judaica staff consists of the curator of Judaica, one professional cataloger/bibliographer, and three technical library assistants.

Hebrew and Biblical studies have been taught at the University of Michigan since the late nineteenth century. Judaic Studies was established in 1971 and was made an independent program in 1976. In 1988, it was renamed the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies in honor of the Frankels, whose generous support, along with that of the Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit, allowed the Center to expand its program and widen its range of activities. The Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan offers students an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Jewish civilization and thought.

Harvard University Library (Cambridge, MA)

When I met the Judaica librarians from Harvard I asked about their acquisitions policy. It has only one word, "everything." As a comprehensive research university, Harvard thinks huge for all its library collections. The Harvard University libraries have more branches and departments (158) and library materials (13.5 million volumes) than most large cities. Widener Library is their main library.

The Judaica Collection of the Harvard College Library's mission is to document the Jewish experience throughout history in order to support teaching and research at Harvard and to serve as a resource for the scholarly community.

To carry out this mission the Judaica Division collects materials covering all aspects of Jewish life and culture in every place and period, with particular comprehensive coverage of Jewish life and culture in the State of Israel. These materials, from all parts of the world, in all languages, include books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, posters, broadsides, photographs, microforms, sound recordings, videotapes and electronic databases. Special emphasis is placed on materials in Hebrew. Significant holdings can also be found in other libraries of the Harvard College Library, such as the Fine Arts Library, Houghton Library (rare books), and the Loeb Music Library(2); and in libraries of other faculties, such as the Divinity School Library, the Law School Library, and Countway Library of Medicine.

Dorot Jewish Division of New York Public Library (New York, NY)

The Dorot Jewish Division of The New York Public Library, one of the great collections of Judaica, is accessible for both scholarly and personal use. The Jewish Division was started in 1897. In that same year, Jacob Schiff donated $10,000 for the purchase of Semitic literature. Abraham Solomon Friedus, the first librarian, selected Jewish books in Hebrew and other languages from the Astor Library. The collection began with about 2000 volumes. In November 1897 the Library obtained the working library of Leon Mandelstamm, a Russian scholar and educator. Two years later 500 volumes (strong in responsa) from the library of Meyer Lehren of Amsterdam were acquired. Schiff continued his support by leaving a $25,000 bequest to acquire contemporary and rare books. In 1903 the Aguilar Free Library, a small public library system operated by a group of philanthropic Jews in the nineteenth century, merged with The New York Public Library. By 1907 the Jewish Division had approximately 15,000 volumes. In 1911 the Division moved to its present site on Fifth Avenue with 21,000 volumes.

A.S. Friedus primarily saw himself as a reference librarian even though he devised a library classification system that was used in Judaica research collections. Friedus viewed the library as workshop for scholars. Important books of Jewish scholarship such as the Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1901-1905), Ozar Yisrael, by Judah Eisenstein (New York, 1907-1913), and Thesaruarus Totius Hebraitatis = Milon ha-Lashon ha-Ivrit, by Eliezer Ben Yehudah (1908-1959) could not have been written without the help of the Jewish division.

In 1983, the estate of Jacob Perlow, a New York City realtor, established an endowment fund which partially supports acquisitions, conservation, and public services. In 1986, the Dorot Foundation endowed the position of the Chief of the Division, and the following year the S.H. and Helen R. Scheuer Family Foundation made a substantial gift for renovation and new technology.

To be continued ...

Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: /~ddstuhlman/liblob.htm. He can be reached via e-mail at:

1. Books in Print does not include government publications, most publications of non-profit organizations, serials, ephemera, and publishers that choose not to participate. Even the largest book stores in the world carry only a tiny fraction of the book listed in Book in Print.

2. The music library is named for its donor, Eda Kuhn Loeb(1867-1951), daughter of Samuel and Regina Wise Kuhn. She married Morris Loeb, son of Solomon and Rebecca (Betty) Loeb. Samuel's brother, Abraham, was a founder of the banking firm Kuhn, Loeb. She was a niece of Jacob Schiff's wife. Eda Kuhn Loeb, grand niece of Eda, wrote me to correct my previous family informtation.

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©2002 Last revised July 30, 2006