Scholars who have read the 2019 Annual Bulletin of the Jewish Studies Program at Cornell University will notice the close connection between this dynamic academic program and the work of the Cornell University Library in attracting and caring for research collections of enduring significance. “Absolutely irresistible” were the words Professor Olga Litvak, Department of History and a Jewish Studies Program faculty member, used to describe Olin Library’s holdings, always on the increase, in Jewish and Russian studies.

Olin Library holdings for Jewish Studies include:

  • A first-rate collection of modern Hebrew literature (in the original language and selected translations)
  • A growing compilation of books on Israeli and Jewish history and society
  • Holocaust studies literature, including memorial books, in multiple languages
  • A dynamic collection of rabbinic commentaries and literary criticism of the Jewish Bible
  • Israeli and Jewish-themed videorecordings, available via DVD or streaming
  • Electronic journals in the hundreds spanning the field of Jewish Studies.

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC) and the Kheel Center of the ILR School’s Catherwood Library have also across the years welcomed an eclectic range of collections with the potential to challenge—and to astonish—the most sophisticated researchers. This range includes archival collections, bound manuscripts, antiquarian imprints, and rare photographs. A sampling of rare acquisitions, both recent and historical, follows:

  • Three hundred pinḳesim (פנקסים)—Jewish community ledger books—that arrived in RMC in 2018 through the generosity of the Friends of Cornell Jewish Studies pose a fascinating challenge in research access. They will undoubtedly attract social and urban historians of the great migration of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe to America starting around 1880.

These pinḳesim belong to a constellation of resources in the library that include several thousand volumes of Yiddish literature; a small but significant collection of Yiddish wartime publications from “Der Emes” in the Soviet Union; important (immigrant) Jewish labor history documentation in the Kheel Center of the ILR School’s Catherwood Library, including collections remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Company tragedy; and a collection of books and journals from the Central and Eastern European Haskalah movement.

  • On deposit with the library is a magnificent compilation of some four hundred books on the Jewish fable, a painstaking endeavor by Cornell alumnus Jon Lindseth. The collection comprises works ranging from six hundred years ago to the present and from Judeo-Persian to American English. Highlights include several tractates of the sixteenth-century Bomberg Talmud and a fifteenth-century Ashkenazi Torah scroll on Italian parchment.

  • The Steven M. Glazer Collection of Leopold Zunz Material, a tribute to the father of the Wissenschaft des Judentums, provided the impetus for collecting related works from the Haskalah now in RMC.

  • The Isaac Rabinowitz Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts is a rich resource for interpreting the handwritten transmission of Hebrew texts. These manuscripts include books of the Hebrew Bible, books of prayer, and rabbinic commentary from Mizraḥi, Mediterranean, and Provençal Jewish communities from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Professor Rabinowitz was a prime mover in the revitalization of Jewish Studies at Cornell a half-century ago.

  • Italian imprints in the RMC vault (from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries) evoke a history of tolerance for Jewish intellectual and religious life in some cities of Italy, notably Venice and Livorno. The printers of Livorno, with connections throughout the Mediterranean, supplied texts with commentary in Judeo-Arabic to communities in North Africa. Especially striking is an imposing siddur in the Italian rite, printed in 1718 in Mantua.

  • The Lesly Lempert Collection has extensive documentation from Israeli and Palestinian Arab human rights groups active during the First Intifada (1987), compiled during Lesly Lempert’s tenure as executive director of the American-Israeli Civil Liberties Coalition.

  • The donated professional library of Professor Ángel Sáenz-Badillos and Professor Judit Targarona Borrás has been undergoing organization at Cornell since 2015. A number of works by Spanish scholars in Sephardic Studies, heretofore absent from Olin Library, are now in the book collection courtesy of this generous gift. An archival collection of offprints authored individually or together by Professors Sáenz and Targarona is in RMC.

  • Archival collections on the Holocaust include:

Additional library guides are under development to describe Jewish Studies collections and research access. Please watch this space.

Please contact Patrick J. Stevens, the selector for Jewish Studies, with inquiries.

מדעי היהדות ועם ישראל

Jewish Studies / Etudes judaïques

Cornell University Library

~ Patrick J. Stevens, Selector

2B60 Kroch Library

Cornell University Library

Ithaca, New York 14853-5302

Jewish Studies

Synagogue Eliyahu ha-Navi (Alexandria, Egypt)

Constructed 1850

Wikimedia Commons: 31 December 2000, Public Domain

Jewish Studies / Fiske Icelandic Collection