Groundbreaking for $11.5 Million Renovation of Klau Library at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Groundbreaking for $11.5 Million Renovation of Klau Library at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Celebrated at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion 

Leaders of the Cincinnati community joined faculty, students, administration, and members of the Boards of Governors and Overseers of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at the groundbreaking for the $11.5 million renovation of the Klau Library on Monday, September 24, 2007. 

In welcoming the guests, Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, stated, "The Klau Library resides at the very heart of our enterprise and offers tangible testimony to the absolute commitment we have as a liberal Jewish institution of higher learning to the enterprise of academic study. At HUC-JIR, we recognize that our approach to the Jewish religion would not be possible without the foundation that this library provides, and cherish and champion the belief that academic learning –Wissenschaft -- can and does make a decisive difference in how we view our evolving religious tradition and the enduring values that inform our understanding of Judaism." 

Councilmember Roxanne Qualls, City of Cincinnati, brought greetings and expressed gratitude to the College-Institute and Klau Library for their educational and cultural enhancement of the city. The Honorable Tyrone K. Yates, Ohio House of Representatives, 33rd District, provided a declaration from the Ohio House of Representatives congratulating the College-Institute on the Klau Library, noting that "libraries are the repositories of our nation's intellectual endeavors" and "vital to the preservation of our country's heritage, principles, and ideals." 

Phyllis Sewell, President of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, which donated the lead institutional gift of $6.5 million to the College-Institute, expressed the Foundation's pride in the Klau Library and lauded HUC-JIR's commitment to ensure that its treasures be preserved and made accessible for posterity. Sandy Cardin, Executive Director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, noted that the Klau Library is a national treasure and a precious resource to scholars, researchers, and students from around the world. 

In his keynote address, Dr. Frank Turner, Director of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, said "This library contains books and manuscripts that exist in some cases nowhere else on the American continent and in others no place else in the world. When one contemplates the history and suffering, as well as the spiritual majesty and courage, of the Jewish people and the Jewish faith, the manuscripts and books of this library function as witnesses of those experiences and as vehicles for bringing that experience alive to this and future generations." 

With 465,000 volumes, the Library has the largest collection of printed Judaica in North America and second only in size to that of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, Israel. This renovation and construction of a new Pavilion entry will transform the Klau Library into an unparalleled, international center for research, teaching, and learning for scholars worldwide and enhance the intellectual and cultural life of the greater Cincinnati region. 

In his invocation, Dr. Richard S. Sarason, Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, spoke on behalf of the faculty in acknowledging the Klau Library's significance for the research and scholarship not only for the HUC-JIR community of students and teachers, but for researchers from around the world. 

The Klau Library's mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to the total record of Jewish thought and experience. Its Rare Book collection includes important collections of incunabula (books printed before 1501) and 16th century Hebrew imprints, and archival and literary manuscripts, including the unique Chinese-Hebrew collection. It has the world's largest collection of early Jewish Americana, and preeminent collections of Jewish music, Spinozana, and Christian Hebraica. It also houses the American Jewish Periodical Center, which preserves on microfilm some 900 newspaper, journal, and synagogue bulletin titles. 

In her presentation on one of the Klau Library's rare manuscripts, "Dr. Susan Einbinder, Professor of Hebrew Literature at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, noted, "It is easy to marvel at the whims of fate that allow these fragile artifacts to survive. It is nonetheless a fact of Jewish history that the fragility of the owners has often been greater than that of their books. These pieces of paper and parchment, whether tenderly preserved or torn and scattered through the years, are what remain to tell us the story of people and a past that lead us here." 

Over 200 Judaica databases and 10,000 digitized images of works from its collections can be accessed using the Klau Library's internal computer network. It is one of the three conservators in the world of the negatives of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Its online catalogs are accessible to a world-wide community of users at HUC-JIR's website (, which also provides links to timely topics, online exhibitions, subject research guides, online databases, and local resources. 

"'Books are for use' is the first law of librarianship, and the Klau Library prides itself on making its collections accessible to as wide an audience as possible; it has a justly earned international reputation as the 'lender of last resort' for Hebraica and Judaica," added Dr. David Gilner, HUC-JIR Director of Libraries. 

The Klau Library in Cincinnati serves as both the campus library and the main research library within HUC-JIR's four-campus library system, which also includes the S. Zalman and Ayala Abramov Library at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem, the Frances-Henry Library at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, and the Klau Library at HUC-JIR in New York. It also serves as a resource for the University of Cincinnati and other local educational institutions through its membership in the Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium, the Ohio College Library Consortium, and the Research Libraries Group. 

"We are eagerly anticipating a building that will properly house and preserve the collection far into the future, as well as provide flexibility for future needs," adds Laurel Wolfson, Administrative Librarian. 

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.