Page 186 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

Basic HTML Version

1 7 8
cided to establish a new library. Aside from his personal interest
as a lover o f books, and his keen desire to fulfill the mitzvah
that a pious Jew should own sacred texts5, books were needed
in connection with ongoing clandestine activities to teach Ju­
daism, in which Habad Hasidim were involved in many com­
munities.6 The private collection o f Judaica owned by Samuel
Wiener, formerly head o f the Asian Museum at the Royal Acad­
emy o f Science in Leningrad, became the “backbone” o f this
new library. Wiener’s holdings were soon augmented by thou­
sands o f gifts from followers. In addition to “Sifre Kodesh”
— books on themes dealing with the religious aspects o f Judaism
and which, as such, were treated with reverence, the collection
included substantial numbers o f secularist works, even materials
produced by spokesmen o f the virulently atheistic Yevsektsia .
The Lubavitcher Rebbe arrived in America in 1940. He soon
established new headquarters at the above mentioned address
in Brooklyn, from where he continued the work o f teaching
Habad Hasidism for the next ten years. At that time, approx­
imately 50,000 titles were assembled in the Lubavitch Library,
including a number o f incunabula, rare prints from the 16th
and 17th centuries, Hebrew books published in Tsarist Russia
prior to the decree o f 1836 outlawing all Hebrew presses, and
about 1,000 manuscripts o f hasidic works in book format. While
still in Warsaw, Poland, making plans for emigration, the Rebbe
saw to it that the library be legally registered as the property
o f Agudas Chasidei Chabad — an American Association o f Syn­
agogues and or Bate Midrash (Houses o f Study) sympathetic
to Habad doctrine. Thanks to the initiative o f this organization,
5. Mitzvah # 613 in Deuteronomy 31; 19 stipulates the religious duty incum­
bent upon every Jew to write a Sefer To rah for his own use; the idea
gradually evolved in the rabbinic tradition to embrace all types o f holy
books which derive from the Written T orah , both in manuscript form as
well as printed texts.
. See biographical data by B .A . Gorodetzky in
Sefer Zikaron,
A guda t Anshe Kiev (n.d.), pp. 15-33.
7. Jewish branch o f the Communist party charged with the responsibility to
suppress all forms o f traditional Judaism, including the Synagogue and
Hebraic culture. T h e Yevsektsia promoted for a while Yiddish culture o f
its own brand, the daily “Emes” serving as its chief mouthpiece. It eventually
disintegrated following the famous purges o f 1936-8. Copies o f “Emes”
and numerous other publications, such as journals, political tracts, and
propaganda leaflets, are preserved in the archives o f S A CH .