National Library of Israel to Digitize HUC-JIR's Hebrew Manuscripts - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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National Library of Israel to Digitize HUC-JIR's Hebrew Manuscripts

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Oren Weinberg, Director of the National Library of Israel (left) and Dr. David Gilner, Director of Libraries, HUC-JIR

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion [HUC-JIR] Library has entered into an agreement with the National Library of Israel [NLI] allowing the NLI to digitize and to provide access to Hebrew manuscripts located in the four campus libraries of the HUCL system. This agreement permits NLI to provide general public access on its website to the digital images created from HUC-JIR Library digitized microfilms. Use of images “born digital” will be restricted to workstations located at the NLI. The agreement is part of a larger project to photograph Hebrew manuscripts scattered in libraries around the world.

The HUC-JIR Library has been a leader in implementing new technologies for the preservation and dissemination of our unique and precious resources. In 1955, it established the American Jewish Periodical Center [AJPC] and became the first Jewish library--and one of the first libraries worldwide--to preserve its periodical collection on archival-quality microfilm. In 1996, the Library became the first Judaica library to make selections from its rare book and illuminated manuscript holdings available using the Pro3000 digital planetary camera system developed at IBM’s T.J. Watson Laboratories.


With over 500,000 printed books and many thousands of special collection items including manuscripts, computer files, microforms, maps, broadsides, bookplates, tablets, and stamps, the HUC-JIR Klau Library, Cincinnati, has the largest Judaica collection in the western hemisphere, and is second in size only to the Judaica collection at the NLI.

“Books are for use” is the first law of librarianship, and the HUC-JIR 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. The HUC-JIR Library has always been a leader in making its resources available to as wide a user community as possible, both locally and worldwide. Rare and unique items are loaned for exhibits at the great museums of the world, including: the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, Museum of the Jewish Diaspora (Tel Aviv), New York Public Library, Jewish Museum (New York), Jewish Museum (Frankfurt), Israel Museum (Jerusalem), and numerous other smaller institutions worldwide.

Founded in 1892 as a world center for the preservation of Jewish thought and culture, the National Library of Israel was established to "collect, preserve, cultivate, and endow the treasures of knowledge, heritage and culture in general, with an emphasis on the Land of Israel, the State of Israel and the Jewish people in particular." With that mission in mind, the NLI has set out on a journey of rebuilding, restructuring and enhancing capacities. The goal is to craft an institution at the frontier of information and cultural ingenuity, in the core areas that the law has enshrined. Working with partners in the fields of information and content, the National Library will make a vital contribution to the international effort to preserve and promote the treasures of humankind’s cultural heritage.


Manuscripts to be shared with NLI include: fifty-nine codices written by the Jews of Kaifeng, China, including the Chinese-Hebrew Memorial Book; two beautifully illustrated haggadot, the late 15th century First Cincinnati Haggadah created in southern Germany and the early 18th century Second Cincinnati Haggadah produced in Moravia;  sixty-one manuscripts from the Samaritan community, including a Pentateuch from 1479 and a Deuteronomy scroll written in 1145; eighty illuminated scrolls, mostly Esther scrolls, which include examples of both the oldest of such works and the most beautiful and unusual; and materials from the Eduard Birnbaum Collection of Jewish cantorial music, the world’s largest collection of Jewish music manuscripts, which includes sheet music and indices to the different liturgical melodies used by the Jews of Europe.




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.