Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

Basic HTML Version

THE L I B R A R Y A N D A R C H I V E S OF
T H E LEO BAECK I N S T I T U T E
I N NEW Y O R K
By
M
ax
K
reutzberger
T
h e L i b r a r y a n d A r c h i v e s
of the Leo Baeck Institute in
New
York are the latest link in the small but important chain
of scholarly Jewish libraries and Jewish cultural collections in the
United States. The Institute was founded in 1955 by the Council
of Jews from Germany for the purpose of collecting material and
sponsoring research into the history of the Jewish community in
Germany and in other German speaking countries, especially
from the time of the Emancipation to its decline and dispersion.
Named in honor of the last representative figure of German
Jewry during the years of its greatest tragedy, the Institute has
three research centers: in Jerusalem, London and New York.
From the very beginning, the Leo Baeck Institute in New York
was assigned the task of collecting the published and unpublished
documentation of German speaking Jewry. This was an herculean
task, since it was not feasible to turn to earlier, existing collections
or to proceed systematically to acquire material through purchase
or donations. It demanded endless, painstaking toil, encompassing
almost the whole world and growing more difficult from year to
year. During the first years some important acquisitions were still
possible, but later the second-hand and rare book market for
German Judaica became progressively smaller. The larger German
libraries, too, sought to build up their Judaica collections again
and entered the market as buyers, while the supply of Judaica—
previously maintained by many important second-hand dealers—
all but disappeared, through dearth of material and of trained
personnel, and because of a decline in the general interest in
the subject.
Nevertheless, the Institute succeeded in acquiring an important
collection of published and unpublished material—community and
personal archives, single documents and autographs—constituting
perhaps the most significant documentation of the history of Ger-
man speaking Jewry in the Western world to some extent dating
back to the sixteenth century. To single out a few: The prints and
writings concerning the Reuchlin controversy are almost complete.
47