Between the Lines Vol. 15, No. 2 (Fall 2002)

Library Acting Director Named

Naomi M. Steinberger was appointed Acting Director of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary for the 2002-2003 fiscal year. Ms. Steinberger has served the library for the past fifteen years in the capacity of Administrative Librarian for Public Services, Systems Librarian and Executive Librarian.

Naomi Steinberger set a number of goals for this year reflecting the library's mission of collecting, preserving and making the cultural heritage of the Jewish people available in print and non-print format. In keeping with this mission Ms. Steinberger plans to expand the library's electronic-format publications, reach out to collectors for adding significant special collections for the library and fill in lacunae in the library's collection.

In the area of preservation, she plans to build on the newly expanded conservation lab, supported by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon and Bernard Heller Foundations, and expand the digital preservation projects of the library's collections.

A third goal is assuring access to the library's collections as a primary priority for the benefit of the students and faculty of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Projects scheduled for this year include inaugurating a program of electronic reserves, expanding and enriching the bibliographic instruction program, completing the retrospective conversion of the library's catalog to electronic format and expanding, and redesigning the library's web site.

Last but not least is focusing on the library's expanding exhibition program in the newly designated Goldsmith Gallery; publishing scholarly and exhibition catalogs of specific collections and working with The Library 's Board of Overseers to bring the library to the forefront of Jewish cultural life.

Most importantly, Ms. Steinberger is appreciative of the support of a highly-professional and highly-motivated staff in The Library and the backing of the administration and faculty of The Jewish Theological Seminary in helping to realize these goals.

JTS Library Contributes to Memoria de Sefarad Exhibition in Toledo, Spain

Two of the library's most precious treasures reflecting the outstanding contributions of Spanish Jewry until its expulsion from Spain in 1492 are part of an exhibit Memoria de Sefarad in Toledo, Spain, together with five additional items requested by the Spanish government. This exhibition was organized by the government of Spain in an effort to showcase the remarkable contributions of the Jewish community to the larger Spanish culture.

One of the two items on loan is Codex Hilleli. The Codex is considered to be the most exemplary of all the copies of the Hebrew Scriptures produced by medieval Spanish Jewry and completed in Toledo in 1241. It became a model for biblical scribes encompassing the period known as the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry.

The Toledo Bible is one of the earliest published texts to contain full accents and vocalization. It was smuggled out of Spain unfinished in the summer of 1492 by Jews fleeing the country following the expulsion and completed in Constantinople in 1497.

Other items from the library's collection on loan to the exhibition are: an autographed page from Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed found in the Cairo Genizah; a framed leaf from a sixteenth-century Haggadah from Constantinople; a fifteenth century Pentateuch with Rashi commentary and Abraham Bar Hiyya's Sefer Tzurat Ha-Aretz also from the fifteenth century.

The exhibition will be on view in Toledo, Spain from October 11, 2002 - December 8, 2002.

New Judaica Book Funds Established

The library is pleased to announce the establishment of the following Judaica Book Fund endowments:

  • The Sophie and Hershel Freidkes Book Endowment donated through the estate of Sophie Friedkes, Ruth Levy and Rubin Wallach, executors, memorializing their aunt and uncle, Sophie and Hershel Friedkes.
  • Book Fund for Judaica acquired through a grant from Keren Keshet-the Rainbow Foundation.
  • The Mayer E. Rabinowitz Book Endowment in Rabbinics established by The Library Board of Overseers in honor of Mayer Rabinowitz.

Judaica Collectors at Work at The Library

Walking through the technical services area of the library you are likely to find Dr. Alfred Moldovan and Mr. Abraham Kremer, important Judaica collectors, sitting across one another with carts filled with books in various states of usable condition beside them. The two are volunteering their time to sort through some fifty to sixty thousand books and documents salvaged from the fire that ravaged the Seminary's library stacks on April 18, 1966. The salvage operation was known at the time as "Operation Booklift".

Much like the tedious process undertaken by the original volunteers after the fire of 1966, Moldovan and Kremer are carefully examining fragile volumes, one by one, looking at these vast unprocessed materials from a collector's point of view. "Our initial goal is to sort the books into three categories" was their response to the question: "How do you approach such a vast task"? "Books to be saved, re cataloged and re-shelved; books to be sold or disposed of, and rare books to be recovered, preserved and re-cataloged. "In the past two months we have been examining this collection and have come across hundreds of volumes worth tens of thousands of dollars in languages such as Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, Spanish, French, Italian and Hungarian. However, the truly precious rewards we have been experiencing is in the finding of rare treasures". Among them are volumes of Latin disputations dating to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; first editions of rare Yiddish books; a 1907 Prague museum catalog; rare children's books with artwork by famous Jewish artists, and bibliographies essential as tools in research for Jewish art and Jewish bibliography.

"My ultimate goal is to find an incunabula leaf" says Dr. Moldovan as Abraham Kremer proudly displays another rare find, a volume containing legislation of civil disabilities of the Jews in Germany during the middle of the eighteenth century.

Dr. Moldovan's extensive and varied private collection of Judaica and Hebraica, spanning a period of over thirty years, has been on exhibition in Jewish museums throughout the United States and Israel. He was the founder of the Harry G. Friedman Society, an organization of Judaica collectors.

Among various collected treasures owned by Mr. Kremer, is a preeminent collection of hundreds of volumes of the five megillot in over fifty languages. Both Mr. Kremer and Dr. Moldovan served as presidents of the Harry G. Friedman Society.

From The Rare Book Room - A Glimpse into the Margins and Between the Lines

Rare book collectors place a special value on clean copies. A book in pristine condition commands the highest price. Pristine copies of older Hebraica are rarities, however, for while books in European languages were often purchased for display on the shelves of wealthy collectors, Jewish books have always been meant to be studied.

It is no wonder that, whereas marginal notes and interlinear glosses tend to be seen as an affliction reducing the value and beauty of a book, in the case of Hebraica, if the annotator is the right person, the value of the book can be significantly increased. The edition of the Talmud published in Vilna in the last quarter of the nineteenth century provides a classic example of the value of marginalia. The publishers bought up the old Talmuds of celebrated scholars just for the handwritten annotations those scholars left in their volumes in order to publish them in this new edition. That feat has never been equaled, and editions of the Talmud published today are still reproduced from the famous "Vilna Shas."

The value of another of our booksets was recently revealed to us. We own an incunabulum- in itself an extremely valuable rarity - the Naples, 1492, edition of the first Jewish code, the Mishnah (ca. 200 CE) with the commentary of Moses Maimonides, a giant of the middle ages. Originally written in Judeo-Arabic for Jews in the Islamic world, that commentary had been translated into Hebrew more than once in the middle ages for the benefit of European Jewry. Our copies had marginal annotations, but we paid little heed, due to the brevity. However, when we had an opportunity to examine another copy of this work, we found similar annotations. The annotator, it turns out, was Abraham Bukarat, a Spanish scholar, exegete, and poet who went to Tunis following the expulsion of 1492 (the year the Naples Mishnah was published!). Bukarat was well versed in the natural sciences as well as in Spanish and Arabic. His Sefer ha-Zikkaron (Leghorn, 1845), one of the best super commentaries on Rashi to the Penteuch, was completed there in 1507. In it he reveals himself a painstaking scholar, with a sensitive feeling for language. Bukarat utilized his linguistic knowledge to elucidate the meaning of words and concepts and also to collate manuscripts to determine the correct version. His elegy on the expulsion from Spain is of considerable importance.

Bukarat criticized the printed Maimonides translation on the grounds that the translator was unable to grasp the Arabic nuances of the commentary, and that his work was further blemished by the failure of copyists and printers to read and transmit the translation properly. The recognition that Bukarat was the author of many of the glosses in our own copies makes them all the more valuable. This is increased further by the fact that different people had copied the glosses into the different volumes of our Naples edition, probably in the sixteenth century, showing that their value was appreciated right from the start. The library values such augmentations. Several shelves in our Rare Book Room are devoted to a little known collection of treasured books acquired solely for the scholarly marginalia that they contain.

The Friends of The Library added to this collection by funding the purchase of the manuscript Rav Alfas (Sabbionetta, 1554) at an auction in July 2002, in Israel. Rav Alfas contains hundreds of additions and comments written in its margins in Hebrew, in the cursive Italian style. The Friends also funded Minchat Haboker, purchased at that auction.

Culture and Costume: Depictions of Jewish Dress Across Five Centuries An Exhibition Sponsored by The Friends of The Library

Exhibition Sponsored by Friends of The Library The library is mounting an exhibition of rare prints documenting the perceptions and imaginings of travelers and artists who illustrated Jewish modes of dress in various parts of the world from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries.

The clothing of Jews seen in these prints reflects a complex merging of religious observances and external restrictions on dress placed on Jews by rulers and governments. At certain times in history, Jews were subjected to elaborate detailed regulations regarding their dress. For the dates and places represented in the prints showcased in this exhibition, restrictions applied primarily to the types of headwear and footwear worn and to the colors that were either mandatory or prohibited by the respective ruler or government.

The prints featured in this exhibition appeared in travelogues, albums, history and costume books. They reflect traditions, adaptations of foreign styles, degrees of assimilation, and cultural attributes of members of the Jewish community in their dispersion..

The exhibition will be on display in the Goldsmith Gallery from December 25, 2002 - March 31, 2003. For further information call 212-678-8975.

Friends of The Library Support Book Acquisition Program Electronic Books - From Paper to Computer Files

The library has recently acquired its first collection of scholarly electronic books. The project, funded by the Friends of The Library , is in keeping with the library's collection development guidelines stating that the library should include all types and genres of publications in Jewish studies.

Known widely as e-books, these electronic publications can be read directly off the computer screen. This electronic format of the book gives the reader the ability to search within the text for a subject and even for a single key word. Browsing and moving within the content of the e- book is easy and precise. Currently, many of the books are published and available both in print and in electronic formats. e-books are more common within the scholarly and trade publishing world and utilizing text for retrieving information in an efficient way is more vital for the non-fiction world than in the world of fiction.

NetLibrary is a major provider of electronic books. NetLibrary's e-books are full-text, searchable and available for use on the reader's computer. The reader can view the books, search within the book, and check for table of content and even use a dictionary while reading the text. The newly purchased e-book collection at the library includes 246 e-books in Jewish Studies published as of 1996. The reader can access this collection from within the JTSA network and/or while searching for an author, title and/or subject on the library's online catalog..

The library utilizes the Internet to create its virtual library, which is a collection of full text resources as well as links to outside resources in Jewish Studies that are relevant to the Seminary's faculty, students and other users. The purpose of the library's usage of the Internet is to create a knowledge-based environment on the web that will bring the library to its readership even beyond the library building. The library will expand this collection by adding additional titles annually.

Friends of The Library Publish Jewish Calendar 5763

The calendar is the fifth publication of the Friends in cooperation with Universe Publishing, a division of Rizzoli International Publications, to feature holdings from the JTS library and distribute them world wide.

The full color, fifteen months calendar for 5763 (2002/2003) focuses on images from the Mediterranean region and includes illuminated manuscripts, kettubot and scrolls from the library's Special Collection.

The calendar and other items published by the library can be viewed and ordered on-line at or by calling 212-678-8962.