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Tish’ah be-Av

July 30th, 2014 by Libraryblog

Sefer Minhagim. Amsterdam.  This woodcut is from a Yiddish Minhagim book (book of customs) published in Amsterdam in 1723 by Herts Levi Rofe. It depicts prayers in the synagogue on the fast of Tish’ah be-Av (9th day of Av), the day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Note the flames in the background, a symbolic representation of the burning of the Temple.

 Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger

The Tragedy of a Generation

May 21st, 2014 by Libraryblog

TTOAGThe Tragedy of a Generation : the Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism in Eastern Europe, by Joshua M. Karlip. Harvard University Press, 2013.

This book explores a serious attempt at an alternate, non-religious expression of Jewish identity that took place in the last 150 years.

Today the chief forms of communal Jewish identity are either a religious expression through Judaism or identification with the State of Israel, by living there or by supporting the Zionist enterprise.  In the mid-nineteenth century the largest settlement of Jews in the world, Czarist Russia, was marked by attempts at new forms of Jewish identity.  Some Jews sought assimilation and still others acculturation in the general culture.  But the vast majority of Jews leaving the traditional religious community sought more Jewish expressions, such as Zionism, Jewish socialism (the Bund), and the subject of this volume – Jewish cultural and territorial autonomy, also known as Diaspora Nationalism.

The author explores various attempts at Jewish autonomy in Russia and later in Poland. Such attempts were marked by a desire for either cultural autonomy through the official status of the Yiddish language or for territorial autonomy by the creation of a specific autonomous Jewish region other than Palestine. In most cases, efforts at territorial autonomy interfaced with the efforts at cultural autonomy. Dr. Karlip analyzes these attempts at Jewish autonomy through the work and thought of three major representatives of the movement, namely Elias Tcherikower, Zelig Kalmanovitch and Yisroel Efroikin.

Although for a time after World War One it appeared that the movement of Diaspora Nationalism had an optimistic future, it soon fell apart.   Following the end of the First World War Jewish cultural autonomy found a place in the new Baltic republics of Lithuania and Latvia with autonomous Jewish schools, teachers’ colleges, media and theaters. Yiddish was regarded as an official language in these areas. In the case of Latvia, a Lubavitcher Chasid, Mordecai Dubin, became the virtual dictator of “Jewish autonomy”. The short-lived independent Republic of the Ukraine offered Jewish cultural and political autonomy, but the victory of the Red army put this to an end.

The most famous and most tragic attempt at cultural and territorial autonomy was in the USSR. There for a period of about 10 years (1923-1933) Jewish cultural autonomy was implemented in White Russia, the Ukraine and other regions with a large Yiddish speaking population. Yiddish schools functioned and a vast Yiddish literature received government support. In Siberia Stalin even created a Jewish autonomous region, Birobidzhan, with Yiddish as its official language. All of these were doomed to failure.
In Poland and the Baltic Republics Diaspora Nationalism failed because it could not attract the degree of support that Zionism, orthodoxy and socialism did among the Jewish masses. The masses saw Zionism and religion as well as socialism as the solution to the “Jewish problem”.

Dr. Karlip does an excellent job at distinguishing the various strains in cultural autonomy and Jewish nationalism, and at describing the internal rivalries and relationships with other Jewish political movements. He uses his vast knowledge of Yiddish and of East European Jewry to shed new light on a unique moment in Jewish culture and life. This is an informative and fascinating study of a movement that now exists only in the pages of history.

Posted by Zalman Alpert.

May 1958-A Newspaper is Born at Stern College

May 13th, 2014 by Libraryblog

First Step - Stern 1958 web_Page_1

EleanorRooseveltatSternCollege May1958

May 1958 was a month of “firsts” at four-year-old Stern College.   The inaugural issue of the First Step, the College’s fledgling journalistic endeavor, was published.  The paper reported on Stern’s first graduating class of twenty-six students, Eleanor Roosevelt’s “Stern College Month” fireside chat on the future role of women in society, the Middle States evaluation, and even the library’s new microfilm machine.  The paper had its light side:  the creators of the Purim play described its origin: “’if the boys uptown can write satires of school life, why, so could we.’” And in a time before cell phones, a column entitled “Suspense Reigns on Monday Night Until the Telephone Rings” depicted life around the sole telephone in the dormitory.

The editorial commented on Stern College in 1958:  “Four years ago there was no fight at Stern College over the honor system, no griping about the cafeteria line, no $15 fee for scholarship application. … Four years ago there was no Stern College. Today we have a school we can be proud of.”  And today, at age sixty, celebrating its 57th graduating class, Stern College indeed has much to be proud of.

Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger

“Why No Matzohs?” Dr. Jacob Birnbaum and the Soviet Jewry Movement

April 7th, 2014 by Libraryblog

Jacob Birnbaum - Isaiah Wall Vigil 4-2-66

Dr. Jacob Birnbaum passed away on April 9, 2014, after this was posted.
May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

המקום ינחם אותם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

On Passover, Jews celebrate the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. May 1, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of another Jewish saga of deliverance, the story of Russian Jews. The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) was born at a student meeting called by Jacob Birnbaum on April 27, 1964. The momentum Birnbaum generated at this gathering culminated a mere four days later in a ”May Day Demonstration” at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations.   This protest, attended by 700 young people carrying handwritten signs with the slogan: “Why no matzohs?” set the pattern for future SSSJ action. Jacob Birnbaum, the founder and creative force behind the SSSJ, unleashed the power of the biblical depiction of the Exodus in the effort to free Jews from the shackles of Soviet Union.  Birnbaum pierced the Iron Curtain by uniting the majesty and awe of Jewish symbols with peaceful, legal, demonstrations and civil rights techniques. This approach galvanized a generation of students, many of them children of Holocaust survivors, determined not to stay silent in the face of oppression of their Jewish brethren.
Yeshiva University awarded Jacob Birnbaum the Mordecai Ben David Award in 1988 and an honorary doctorate in 2007.  The records of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, including correspondence, telegrams, photos, audio recordings and video, are housed at the Yeshiva University Archives. This photo of Dr. Birnbaum at the Pre-Passover All-Night Vigil at the Isaiah Wall at the United Nations on April 2, 1966 is just one of thousands of items in the SSSJ Collection.

Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger

“Where is it?”

March 19th, 2014 by Libraryblog

whereisitHave you ever looked for items in the Library catalog, only to find that one was “available” in Pollack, the next was “in Library use” in the Rare Book Room, the third was “non-circulating” in Gottesman Reference, and the last was “on reserve” in Stern? “Now what,” you asked yourself, “how am I ever going to find these items?” Great news: in the new YULIS catalog, as part of the information for each item (like Library name and call number) you will see a link that says “Where is it?” Click on that link and it will tell you where you should go to find the item.

Posted by Leah Adler.

A Vision of Purim from Breslau, 1765

March 4th, 2014 by Libraryblog

Mordechai-and-HamanMordechai’s ceremonial ride in regal regalia on a royal horse through the town of Shushan, heralded by Haman at the command of King Ahashverosh, marks a turning point in the story of Purim. The scribe Binyamin Ze’ev (Wolff Jacob) ben Elyakum Getsel Kats of Kempen, depicted the scene in a manuscript written in Breslau (Wroclaw) in 1765. The original illumination may be viewed on the fourth floor of the Mendel Gottesman Library. The complete manuscript and its story are available online: http://www.yu.edu/libraries/memorbuch/
Happy Purim!

Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger


February 20th, 2014 by Libraryblog

ChamoThe YU Libraries have just launched an upgraded version of the YULIS catalog.  With its new look and its enhanced functionality, YULIS now more closely resembles web search engines that are familiar to you from your online activities such as shopping and, of course, using the ubiquitous Google.  The YULIS catalog is the most comprehensive source of information about what is provided by the libraries at the Wilf and Beren Campuses, including books and e-books, journals and e-journals, manuscripts, dissertations, audio and video recordings.  Try it at http://yu.edu/libraries (under the Books, etc. tab.)  And if you miss the old YULIS we’ve renamed it the YULIS Classic Catalog and posted the links.  The content is identical in both YULIS versions.

Hebrew Journals

February 5th, 2014 by Libraryblog


Yeshiva University Libraries are proud to announce the addition of the JSTOR  Hebrew Journals Collection to our Judaic Studies resources.  Students and faculty at Yeshiva University now have access to important Hebrew journals in Jewish Studies, among them:

Atiqot     עתיקות

Cathedra     קתדרה: לתולדות ארץ ישראל ויישובה

Iyyun       עיון

Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought   מחקרי ירושלים במחשבת ישראל

Jewish Studies   מדעי היהדות

Pe’amim      פעמים  

Sefunot   ספונות

Shenaton Hamishpat Haivri     שנתון המשפט העברי


Additional titles in the new collection relate to Israeli  history, politics and general studies.
Yeshiva University Libraries were consulted by JSTOR during the planning phases for its Jewish Studies and Hebrew journals collections.  It is gratifying to see these projects come to fruition and to offer access to our users.

Posted by Zalman Alpert

Responsa On-The-Go

January 3rd, 2014 by Libraryblog

You may now access the Responsa Online database on your tablet or smartphone through the Yeshiva University library’s subscription.  To find the new Responsa On-The-Go interface go to Library’s Jewish Studies Databases webpage, click on “Bar Ilan Online Judaic Responsa” and choose עבור לגירסת טבלט .  Then enter the Username and Password you use for off campus access.

All the database categories of the Responsa Project are available through this new interface as are the majority of the Online Responsa website features. These include the Aramaic-Hebrew Dictionary, Abbreviation Dictionary and the Topics Index.

The font and page layout in this format is easy to read and aesthetically appealing and the search and browse functions are accessible and easy to use.

Posted by Moshe Schapiro


December 30th, 2013 by Libraryblog

The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University is a collection of digitized Judaica sound recordings found on tapes, CDs and phonograph records. The Archives’ collections include recordings in Yiddish, English and Hebrew as well as several other Judaic languages such as Ladino. The recordings span many different genres, like Chassidic and cantorial music, as well as old comedy routines.

While many of the Archives’ holdings are available to be enjoyed online, due to copyright restrictions, a large percentage of the recordings may only be accessed at Judaica Sound Archives Research Stations, which are listed on the Archives’ website.

The Archives can be searched by performer and genre, as well as by song or album name. The Archives’ website also provides links and useful information for anyone doing research in the area of Jewish music or entertainment.

Posted by Moshe Schapiro