Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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THE J EWI S H S TUD I E S COL L E C T I ON
AT U C L A
B
y
S
himeon
B
risman
T
h e
Jewish community of Los Angeles has experienced phenom­
enal stages in growth. From six Jewish names recorded by
the census of 1850 it had expanded to a community of 100,0
by 1940, and then quadrupled itself during the next twenty years
to a staggering 400,000 Jews. Now, by the end of the 1960’s the
estimated figure is nearing 600,000.
A similar growth pattern applies to the University of California
at Los Angeles. Established half a century after the creation of
the first campus of the University of California at Berkeley, it
affiliated with the University in 1919 and set up a campus on a
25 acre tract. Ten years later the campus was moved to a site spread
out over more than 400 acres of land. Up to the 1950’s the growth
was slow and “normal.” Then suddenly the University began to
expand in all directions. It enlarged its staff, added numerous
new departments, engaged prominent professors, tripled its stu­
dent body, and embarked on a building project that produced
in one decade sixty new structures, some of them tremendous
and imposing. During that period of expansion the program of
Hebrew studies at the University was initiated. Hand-in-hand
with this program the need emerged for a meaningful Jewish
studies library collection. The history of the Jewish Studies Col­
lection at UCLA is thus interwoven with the history and develop­
ment of the Hebrew Department at UCLA.
The genesis of the Hebrew Department at UCLA was in 1955.
Early that year a group of prominent members of the Los Angeles
Jewish community met to discuss the possibilities of establish­
ing a Department of Hebrew Language and Literature at the
University. As a result of this and of ensuing meetings, sufficient
funds were raised to enable the University to open its Fall 1956
semester with a professor of Hebrew and Semitics. Initially, the
Classics Department offered these classes to the students. Later,
as interest in Hebrew and Semitics increased, an independent
Near Eastern Languages Department was organized (1959) with
programs leading to the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. A beginning
was also made in the formation of an appropriate library to meet
the needs of the program. For this purpose the University en­
gaged the services of a special bibliographer and cataloger.
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