Between the Lines: Vol. 8, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 1995)

Library Board of Overseers Swings into High Gear

At the October 31 meeting of The Library Board of Overseers, Chair Francine Klagsbrun announced a donation of a major gift of $40,000 by the Kaplen Foundation (see article), and made the following appointments: Alexander Kaplen, New York, chair of the Publicity, Publications, and Media Committee; Audrey Merves, Philadelphia, Exhibits and Public Programming Committee; and Dr. Abraham Karp, New York, Bibliophiles Committee. Dr Karp proposed a plan to form a society of bibliophiles for collectors of Judaica that will meet several times a year at JTS. Mrs. Merves stated that her committee would devote its major efforts to arranging for travelling exhibits of the library's treasures to small and medium sized cities throughout the United States. This would allow these communities, which rarely have the opportunity to host such exhibits, to greatly enrich their cultural life and make ever greater numbers of people aware of JTS and the library's treasures.

Members of the board agreed to host dinner parties to introduce new people to the library's treasures and to enlist their support. Board member Ellen Kapito and her husband Rob, New Jersey, hosted such an event on November 4 at their home. Six couples heard a presentation by Dr. Mayer Rabinowitz in which he showed facsimile copies of rare books and manuscripts. Each guest was presented with a facsimile of a nineteenth century wedding book commissioned by Francine & Samuel Klagsbrun on the occasion of their daughter's recent wedding. The Klagsbruns donated copies of the book to the library for distribution at such occasions. Additional dinner parties will be hosted by board members Zelda Levere, Romie Shapiro, and Audrey Merves.

Harris Shapiro agreed to spearhead an effort to complete the library's retrospective conversion (online computerization). He will meet shortly with Drs. Schorsch and Rabinowitz to launch that effort.

Mrs. Klagsbrun thanked Mr. Philip Horn, consultant to the Chancellor, for his efforts in charting the board's course and in guiding its activities.


From the Rare Book Room

A delegation of Samaritans visited the rare book room at the library on July 27 and examined three of the rare Samaritan manuscripts from the library's collection. The delegation, headed by the High Priest Abd. M. Sadya, reviewed a Samaritan Pentateuch written in Hebrew and Arabic with a Samaritan Aramaic commentary written in Nablus in 1477; a Samaritan commentary on the Pentateuch written in Arabic with Samaritan characters written in Damascus in 1367 which includes a polemic between Samaritans and Jews; and a Samaritan version of the book of Joshua in Arabic with Samaritan characters, written in Damascus in 1361. This manuscript was previously owned by the grandfather of the visiting High Priest, Abd M. Sadya. All three manuscripts are part of the E. N. Adler Collection at the library.

The Samaritans, believed to be descendants of the tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel numbered about 1,200,000 in the fourth and fifth centuries and were settled in many towns and villages in Israel, southern Syria and northern Egypt. Wars and forced conversions reduced them to a group of only 146 people by the year 1917. Throughout the ages, however, the Samaritans have kept their own form of writing in the ancient Hebrew script, their own language, which is ancient Hebrew spoken by Jews until the beginning of the first millennium, and have maintained their own historical traditions for thousands of years. The Samaritan community today numbers 600 people and is split between two areas, each of which has a different political status. Approximately half live in Nablus and in Kiryat Luza, a Samaritan neighborhood on Mount Gerizim, which is currently undergoing a process of transfer of all areas of administrative authority to the Palestinians. The other half lives in Holon, near Tel-Aviv in the state of Israel.

Since the mid 1950s, the Samaritans started to publish portions of their extensive literary treasures. An important factor in this cultural development was the establishment of The Samaritan News and the "Institute of Samaritan Studies in the name of the late Yefet Ben Abraham Tsedaka." The brothers Benyamin Tsedaka and Yefet ben Ratzon Tsedaka, editors and directors of the above mentioned institutions, were among the visitors of the Samaritan delegation at the library.


Focus on the Asher Audio-Visual Center

The Asher Audio-Visual Center, on the second floor of the library building, is now operating in its second year. The Center houses videos, sound recordings and microforms.

The video collection was enriched by an addition of more than 400 videos on Jewish subjects purchased during the Center's first year of operation. The collection focuses on documentaries, films of Jewish life and ritual, educational videos and videos about Israel. All videos are available for viewing in the Asher Audio-Visual Center. Equipment to view videos in standard U.S. format in addition to various international formats is available in the Center. The videos are cataloged in the library's online catalog.

The sound recording collection includes about 5000 items on compact disc, cassette tape, LP and 78 rpm records and reels to reel tapes. Jewish music is the primary focus of the collection. It includes cantorial recordings of liturgy, ethnic music, folk music, Jewish art music and some Jewish popular music. In addition, the library houses the classical music collection of the late Chancellor Gerson D. Cohen. The facilities allow for library users to listen to music in all the sound formats.

The Louis Ginzberg Microfilm Collection is housed in the Asher Audio-Visual Center. This collection includes thousands of microform copies of Hebrew manuscripts from great libraries around the world. The Ginzberg microfilm collection is the largest and most extensive collection of its kind in the Americas. The collection also includes periodicals and other historical documents. We are currently preparing a guide to the collection.

The "JTS Net" is growing and library users now have access to the Internet including the World Wide Web and will soon have access to networked CD-ROMs at the Asher Audio-Visual Center as well.


From the Director

As part of the Jerusalem 3000 celebrations world-wide, the Friends of The Library has planned a number of programs and publications for this coming year:

An exhibition of forty-five lithographs entitled: Mountains Round About: Jerusalem in Israeli Printmaking from the Seventies to the Eighties was mounted with the cooperation of the Cultural Department of the Consulate General of Israel in New York. The exhibition was on view through November 27, 1995, on the second floor of the library.

The Friends, in cooperation with Women's League for Conservative Judaism, sponsored an illustrated lecture by Dr. Haim Finkelstein of Ben-Gurion University, Israel, entitled: Israeli Artists Paint Jerusalem. The lecture took place on Tuesday, September 12, in the Mendelson Convocation Center. Aviva Bar-Barsky, the Israeli Consul for Cultural Affairs in the United States, and members of her staff, as well as a number of Israeli artists were in the audience.

The Friends is sponsoring: Towards the Eternal Center: Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple, an exhibition from the library's collection in the rare book room, to open mid-March 1996 in the library. A catalog and a poster marking this exhibition is being published and produced by the Friends as well. Both the catalog and the poster will be available for sale at the library.

The fourth annual Gerson D. Cohen lecture will be delivered at JTS by Dr. Ivan Marcus of Yale University on Sunday, February 4, 1996. His topic will be: Jerusalem on the Rhine, Jerusalem on the Hudson: The Dynamics of Jewish Continuity. The Friends will sponsor a reception following the lecture. Save the date, the public is invited.

The Friends of The Library sponsored a reception on Tuesday, June 13, in celebration of books published by JTS scholars. Dr. Menahem Schmelzer, Seminary Provost, and Francine Klagsbrun, chairperson of The Library Board of Overseers, offered greetings and congratulatory statements. Chancellor Ismar Schorsch delivered remarks marking this special occasion.

The 1995/96 membership drive is currently in progress. To date, we have received over $30,000 in membership dues. Renew your membership if you have not already done so. Join us in our efforts on behalf of the library and Be a Friend!

Rickie Weiner

Library Receives Gift

The library received a gift of $40,000 from the Kaplen Foundation to fund a public services librarian position. Faced with budgetary constraints in the last few years, the library has been functioning with reduced personnel while servicing a growing student body. The newly appointed Library Board of Overseers was briefed extensively during regular meetings about the pressing needs of the library. Board members were made aware of problems facing the library during in-depth tours of the library and its facilities.

The need for a third public services librarian was recognized by Mr. Alexander Kaplen, a member of The Library Board of Overseers and chairman of its publicity committee, after touring the public services area at the library. Subsequently, this need was met by the generous contribution of the Kaplen Foundation and an additional librarian for public services was hired.

Filling that position is Ms. Batya Kaplan, who started work at the library on November 1st. She is supervising the Asher Audio-Visual Center assisting students and scholars to access information in the center. Sound recording, microforms and videos are also under her supervision. She will instruct library users in how to access the Internet from computers located in the center, as well as assist the administrative librarian for public services and systems in developing a homepage on the World Wide Web for the library. This will enable the library to further publicize its holdings, exhibitions, publications and programs to a worldwide audience.

This gift by the Kaplen Foundation has also enabled the library to expand the number of hours staffed by a professional librarian to include Sundays and evenings in addition to the current regular weekday schedule.


Harry Laufer To Be Honored at Inaugural Library Dinner

Harry Laufer of Hewlett Bay Park, New York, will be honored at an inaugural Library Dinner on Sunday, May 5, 1996, at JTS. Mr. Laufer, long active in Jewish communal affairs, will be honored for his work on behalf of the library and his long-time leadership in Jewish education. The dinner will be chaired by Ira Gober, Lawrence Sarf, Dominick Salzano and Stephen Bokser, all major executives in the food industry. Marilyn Cohen, a member of The Library Board of Overseers and Joan Laufer, wife of the honoree, and a lifelong partner in his endeavors, are dinner coordinators.

After learning about the holdings and range of activities at the library, Mr. Laufer, a member of the newly appointed Library Board of Overseers, took the initiative in working towards the goal of making current and potential supporters of the library aware of its needs. Mr. Laufer, who is president and CEO of Associated Foods, vice-president of the Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Center, president of the Brandeis School in Lawrence, a major supporter of UJA, Israel Bonds and the Israel Tennis Centers, would rather talk about his family and his extracurricular activities than about his successful business career.

Born in Belz, Poland, brought up in an orthodox Jewish home, and educated at a polytechnical school in Germany, Mr. Laufer came to the United States in 1950 and worked his way up in the supermarket business. In the mid-1950s he married his wife, Joan. The Laufers have four children, Francene, Adam, Pamela and Jessica and six grandchildren, ranging in ages from one to fourteen. As Harry now recalls, "By 1979, when Pamela was approaching school age, I felt it was time to get involved with the Jewish community again." With their three children and expecting a fourth, the Laufers moved to Long Island, became affiliated with the Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Center and enrolled their daughter in the Brandeis School, a Solomon Schechter school that was experiencing a declining enrollment. Sensing the importance of making the continued existence of the school a priority, Mr. Laufer proceeded to become vice-president of the school and turned to his associates in the food industry for help. Before long, funds were raised to bolster the school financially, and the student body gradually increased from a low of 190 students to over 400 students who attend classes from kindergarten to eighth grade. Harry has served as president of the Brandeis School since 1987, and his efforts on behalf of the school have been a work of love and tenacity ever since. Two of his children and a granddaughter are graduates of the Brandeis School and two of his grandchildren are presently enrolled in the school.

Harry feels strongly that "every Jewish child should have the opportunity to receive a Jewish education." In keeping with this philosophy, he established, in memory of his father, the Jacob Laufer Torah Library of the Sinai Heritage Center, an organization consisting of Belz Hasidim who encourage those who desire to engage in the pursuit of learning and practicing Judaism.

Proceeds from the dinner honoring Mr. Laufer and the tribute journal that will be issued in conjunction with this event will be used to support the Restoration and Conservation Department at the library.


Patrons to Receive Facsimile from the Rare Book Collection of The Library

Patrons, contributors of $1000 and up to the Friends of The Library for the 1995/96 membership year, will each receive a facsimile of the recently published Commemorative Wedding Volume, Hamburg 1831. The volume is a miniature manuscript of celebratory poems and charming illustrations.

This facsimile was sponsored and presented to The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary by Francine and Samuel Klagsbrun in honor of the wedding of their daughter, Sarah, to Eric Weinstein. Francine Klagsbrun is chair of The Library Board of Overseers.

It has been a Jewish tradition to mark special occasions with the commissioning of special works of art. If you are interested in sponsoring a publication from the library's collection, please contact Rickie Weiner at 212-678-8962, fax 212-678-8998, or by email.