The Great Frontier: The Klau Library Thesis Digitization Project

Thursday, June 16, 2022

For non-scholars, the word “thesis” probably doesn’t elicit an enthusiastic response. And to be fair, there are theses which may seem dry and of no interest to anyone who is not reading them to further their academic studies. However, if theses are universally written off as dull and not worth the read, HUC patrons would miss many engrossing topics that can be found nowhere else. “The Last Frontier: Jewish Pioneers in Alaska” by Matthew J. Eisenberg (Cincinnati, 1991) is one such paper.

From the Russian discovery of western Alaska in 1741, through the settling of Alaska and up to the present, Jews have taken part in Alaskan history as explorers, prospectors, merchants, outfitters, and more. Rabbi Eisenberg’s thesis is a terrific read; just one example of the many papers covering a seemingly limitless number of topics which can be found in HUC Library’s online catalog.

Rabbi Eisenberg is currently Rabbi for Temple Israel Ner Tamid, located in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Interestingly, Rabbi Eisenberg’s father, Frederick Eisenberg (Cincinnati, 1958), founded what was to become Temple Israel Ner Tamid in 1985, and his sister Rachel serves as cantorial soloist. Prior to attending HUC, Rabbi Eisenberg received a B.A. and an M.A. in International Relations from Miami University. Read more about Rabbi Eisenberg here.

The Thesis Digitization Project, begun in the early 2000s and continuing today, is accomplishing the ambitious goal of making all HUC’s theses for all degrees accessible through our online catalog. Until somewhat recently, theses were only submitted in print, so each thesis going back to the late 1800s must be meticulously scanned page by page, made searchable, uploaded to our servers, and linked in the catalog so patrons can find them.

When COVID shut down the HUC campuses it became necessary to find a way to advance the project while working from home; thus in 2020 the Klau Library, Cincinnati undertook the formidable “mini project” of making all the roughly 2,500 digital theses listed in our catalog from all our campuses searchable. This effort was completed in early June, and was celebrated by the Klau Library staff with cake. While there are nearly 2,000 rabbinic theses on the Cincinnati campus, we’ve now processed almost 50% of the “old” print-only works. If a thesis is not yet digitally available, it can be requested by filling out the Library’s Item Request Form here.

Melissa Simmons is the Office Manager and Administrative Assistant for the Klau Library, Cincinnati. Her oversight of the Thesis Digitization Project has led her to bore her son, Jacob, with many anecdotes found while working with the theses.