The Association of Jewish Libraries had their 54th annual conference in Woodland Hills, CA north of LA, the 17th-19th of June 2019. The conference is a three-day event composed of committee meetings, talks, presentations, and a massive amount of networking and learning. Topics presented consisted of specialized collections, Israeli literature, biblical publications, preservation strategies, digital resources, and community collections from around the world. Some of these were led by our very own HUC-JIR librarians in New York, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem.
Rabbi Tamar Duvdevani, PhD, the director of the Abramov Library at the HUC-JIR campus in Jerusalem, spoke about the Talmudic figures of Rachel and Yalta focusing on female perspectives in Talmudic times through new Israeli novels Ha-Pardes Shel Akiva by Yochi Brandes and Yalta by Ruhama Weiss. Eli Lieberman, Judaica librarian at HUC-JIR in New York, spoke about Jewish representation and moral lessons in graphic novels and comics, noting the many popular characters in comics that are identifiably Jewish and how Haredi and other such groups utilize these mediums to impart religious and moral lessons. Sheryl Stahl, the Director of the Frances-Henry Library at the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR and active member of AJL, talked about the challenges of cataloging dozens of scrolls and posters without necessarily having a thorough knowledge of the origins of such items. Lastly, Yoram Bitton, Director of the HUC-JIR libraries, in honor of the 500th anniversary of its publication, analyzed Alpha Betah of Ben Sira, a controversial book that might be considered today to be pulp fiction.
As a first-time attendee and representative of the Cincinnati campus’ library of HUC-JIR, I was thrilled to experience being surrounded by a congregation of colleagues with similar professional interests. To be able to learn so much from so many people in the field was a tremendous blessing. One of the most valuable opportunities for me personally was to see and meet the librarians from the other campuses. In that sense, it was kind of like a family reunion, of which several attendees remarked feeling similarly about getting the chance to see old friends at the annual event. I look forward to attending other AJL conferences and enjoying that same sense of camaraderie with the new colleagues I met and bonded with. In the meantime, I will be brainstorming ways I can present and share at a future conference the knowledge I have gained while working on the wonderful and unique collections to be found at our lovely Cincinnati campus library.
Contributed by Joshua Fischer, Klau Library, Cincinnati