Center For Jewish History To Open David Berg Rare Book Room Oct. 6

Two pages from Mah nishtanah: Hagadah shel Pesah, Prague, 1687. A family haggadah with elaborate woodcuts and signs of usage throughout the centuries that belonged to the family of Rabbi Heinrich Lemle (1909–1978) of Rio de Janeiro. His family was from Baden, Germany. Rabbi Lemle was a “Jugendrabbiner,” or Rabbi for young people, in Frankfurt am Main before fleeing to Rio during the Nazi period. Leo Baeck Institute/Center for Jewish History

NEW YORK CITY — The David Berg Rare Book Room will open on Sunday, October 6, at the Center for Jewish History. Designed by Beyer Blinder Belle, the new space will present exhibitions and collections of rare books, first editions, illuminated manuscripts and letters dating back hundreds of years.

Among the treasures that will be showcased in upcoming exhibitions at The David Berg Rare Book Room are works from Albert Einstein; Franz Kafka; Moses Mendelssohn, the philosopher and Jewish enlightenment thinker; Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism; Nelly Sachs, the playwright and poet; and Emma Lazarus, the writer whose verse appears on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

“We are enormously excited about the opening of the David Berg Rare Book Room here at the Center,” said Michael S. Glickman, the center’s chief operating officer. “It represents the center’s continued commitment to reinventing public spaces and using technology to create ways for visitors and researchers to engage with historical material. The rare book room presents a crucial opportunity to make available some of the most important books and printed materials in the Jewish world and to introduce these materials to diverse audiences.”

Designed as a contemporary jewel box for the historic materials contained within, the 1,000-square-foot David Berg Rare Book Room will be on the main floor of the center.

Visitors will be able to virtually turn the pages of digitized volumes using touch technology. An ambitious program to digitize a large selection of the rare books housed in the partners’ collections is currently underway at the Center and will provide a constant flow of new materials. The room will be lined with custom museum millwork bookshelves with glass doors. It will combine archival vitrines for exhibition displays with a glass viewing wall, enabling visitors to see inside the room from all sides.

The inaugural exhibition, “Circles of Justice: Law, Culture and the Jews of Metz in Eighteenth Century France” will highlight the Eighteenth Century court records documented in the register of the Metz Rabbinic Court (1771–1789), which will be on view for the first time from the YIVO archives.

Revealing everything from family scandals to community politics, these records are rich sources for the study of the early modern family, economic life, communal structures and jurisprudence. The exhibition will explore how secular and religious law collided and converged, and how Jews of the region strove for justice.

Upcoming exhibitions include “Created Equal,” on view February–May, which will be presented by the Center for Jewish History and the American Jewish Historical Society. The exhibition will explore American Jews’ cultural and scientific contributions to the revolutionary world from Independence to the Civil War, and how they helped make the newly-formed United States “a new order of the ages.” 

“Children’s Literature: Magic and Meaning” will follow this exhibit and be on view next June to September. Illuminating vibrant and diverse Jewish communities, this exhibition will feature children’s books no longer in print and available only through the center partners’ collections. The books include educational materials, original stories, folk tales, and fairy tales, as well as classic works by authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and Mark Twain (both of whose works were translated into Yiddish).

The center is at 15 West 16th Street. For more information, 212-294-8301 or www.cjh.org.

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