Page 91 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

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the last volumes of this highly important work were published in
The thirty-year period from the 1880’s to World War I saw the
emergence of the American Jewish community from complete cul-
tural dependence upon Europe to a dawning consciousness of its
place in the chain of Jewish history. This inward change was ac-
companied by the establishment of a number of important Jewish
book collections. One of these was attached to the New York
Public Library and another to the Library of Congress in Wash-
ington. To both Schiff made valuable contributions. The collec-
tion of Judaica and Hebraica in the Library of Congress was, in
fact, begun by him when, in 1912, he purchased for it some ten
thousand volumes and pamphlets gathered over a period of many
years by Ephraim Deinard. One year later he supplemented this
collection with another of considerable size. He had the foresight
to stipulate, moreover, that the collection be properly catalogued
and be cared for by a competent scholar so that the books become
useful to students and readers.
The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America
likewise profited tremendously from his munificence. In 1898 he
purchased and donated to this library the very important collec-
tion of Moritz Steinschneider, the founder of the science of Jewish
bibliography. In 1914 he all but consummated the transfer to the
Seminary of the famous collection of Baron Guenzburg of St.
Petersburg. The outbreak of war intervened and the Jews of
America thus lost the opportunity of using the books which Schiff
had sought to put at their disposal.
In other ways, too, Schiff helped place books before the Jews
of America. He purchased and presented to the American Jewish
Historical Society the Lyons Papers, a highly interesting and valu-
able collection of source material on the history of the Jews in the
United States. They were published later as volumes 21 and 27
of the
of this Society. He also contributed to the
Department of Synagogue and School Extension of the Union of
American Hebrew Congregations, thus enabling it to extend its
The single act which naturally stands out above all others is
his contribution to tfie new translation of the Bible and to its
publication by the Jewish Publication Society. Bible translations
have ever been a cultural landmark in the growth of a Jewish
community. Those of the past heralded the community’s cultural
independence, testifying to the attainment of a certain degree of
adjustment between the Jews and the larger community and to
the need for going back to the roots of Jewish life. Schiff had
been interested in the Jewish Publication Society from its very