Summer Processing of Hebraica and Judaica materials

During the summer, as things quiet down on campus, we often turn to large processing projects, providing further access to many of our otherwise unknown holdings.  This summer has been no different in the Hebraica and Judaica collections.  In past years, our talented students have cataloged about 2000 rare printed Hebrew books, which can now, thanks to their work, be accessed via CLIO.

Vilner Trupe “Yoyvelbuch,” 1931

The major focus of this summer’s work will be archival processing. Due to the tireless efforts of Kevin Schlottman, RBML’s Head Archivist, our archival collections can now be found much more easily. We’re ensuring that once someone requests a formerly unprocessed collection, it will be easier to study the collection thanks to updated finding aids and description.

Sandra Chiritescu, a Ph.D. candidate in the Yiddish department, has been tackling our many Yiddish collections. Sandra has been working in the RBML for quite some time, and did an incredible job reprocessing the massive Language and Culture Archive of Ashkenzic Jewry and creating a finding aid for that collection as well as that of Marvin Herzog, who led the project for decades after the untimely death of its founder, Uriel Weinreich.

Poster from the Szajkowski collection

Sandra began this summer with an addition to the Yiddish Theatre Collection.  The first part of the archive contains documents relating to the Vilner Trupe, including a lovely anniversary booklet from 1931.  The collection also contains two photograph albums from the Bergen Belsen Theatre Troupe, and a collection of Yiddish sheet music from the late 19th and early 20th century.  Sandra has also completed work on the collection of Columbia professor Yehuda (Judah) Yofe, an editor of the Great Dictionary of Yiddish Language and a lecturer at Columbia University.  Her next project will take her into the collection of Zosa Szajkowski, a historian and Archive Thief.  The Szajkowski collection at Columbia contains documents relating to his activities in Paris in the 1930s, and a poster from this collection was featured in the “Yiddish at Columbia” exhibition last spring (right).  All of these collections will have updated finding aids available by the end of the summer.

Map of the word for “grandmother” [BOBE] in all of its varieties across Europe (LCAAJ)
Although the Language and Culture Archive of Ashkenazic Jewry has been completely processed (and its data digitized), we are always looking for ways to make our collections even more accessible.  To assist with this, Marianna Najman-Frank has been working on an inventory of the hundreds of maps in the collection, which will be of great use for scholars interested in specific Yiddish words and their varied pronunciation across the European continent.

Both Marianna and Sandra have also been able to participate in Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place, a project that maps the movement of Jewish books from the hand-press era throughout history and around the world.

A third project will begin later in the summer to catalog the manuscripts from the Oko-Gebhardt Spinoza collection of books by and about Benedict Spinoza.  The printed Spinoza material is already in CLIO, but there are a number of manuscripts as well which will receive records over the course of the summer.  Other projects include more detailed processing of recent acquisitions – both archival collections and manuscript books.

By the end of the summer, we look forward to significantly increased access to many of our Judaica and Hebraica materials.