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Jewish studies collection policy

Liaison librarian

  • Sonia [dot] Smith [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-4715 x09177

October 2013, revised

History of the Collection

The scope of the collection is broad, encompassing most aspects of Jewish civilization biblical and rabbinic studies, Hasidism, mysticism and other Jewish movements, Jewish history and philosophy, Hebrew and Yiddish and other Jewish languages and literatures. The Jewish Studies Department was not established until 1968, but retrospective acquisitions in the form of purchases and gifts have helped compensate for this situation. The basic Jewish Studies collection of monographs and serials generally supports advanced undergraduate studies and work on a Master's level in the two departmental concentrations; the Judaica reference collection supports advanced research. The combined holdings of the McLennan and Religious Studies Libraries form a resource on an advanced research level in the area of English language studies on the Hebrew Bible. Yiddish literature is well represented, particularly in twentieth century rare material.

Current Collection Development

The top priority in the development of the Jewish Studies collection is the maintenance of a solid basic collection to support the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in the following areas: Hebrew Bible and its interpretation; rabbinics and codes; medieval and modern Jewish thought; Eastern European Jewish history; Jewish literature (Hebrew, Yiddish, English); and contemporary North American Jewish life.

Academic Programmes and Liaison

The Jewish Studies Department provides a full range of courses at the undergraduate level in Jewish Studies and a Master of Arts degree by course and thesis. An ad hoc Ph.D. is also available. Collection development is the responsibility of the Jewish Studies Bibliographer. Liaison with the Department is maintained through the Departmental Coordinator as well as with other faculty members when required. Regular contact with the other bibliographers and teaching departments is maintained through the sharing of relevant review material.

McGill Resources

The Humanities and Social Sciences Library in the McLennan-Redpath Library complex is the major location for the University's Jewish Studies collection.

The Rare Books and Special Collections of McGill University Libraries

Hebrew manuscripts: Included among other items are three hitherto unlisted large fragments from the Cairo Genizah, a 400 year old Torah scroll, and a Samaritan Pentateuch.

Yiddish literature: The Joe Fishstein Collection of Yiddish Poetry is an extraordinary collection of close to 3000 works of twentieth century Yiddish literature, including many rare items.

The archives of Dr. Abraham Roback, a former McGill psychology professor and prominent author of works on Yiddish literature, contain much material for the Yiddish scholar, including correspondence in Yiddish with many contemporary personalities.

The Rabbi Lewin Collection consists of 168 volumes of 18th and 19th century Hebraica.

The Arthur Szyck Collection, which is part of the Norman Friedman donation to McGill, includes first editions and other important material of this famous twentieth century Jewish artist and illustrator.

The Rare Books houses other early printed works of relevance to Jewish Studies, such as early printed Hebrew Bibles, lexicons and rabbinic works in Hebrew, Aramaic and Yiddish. Its early 16th century Latin version of Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed is noteworthy. It also has a number of beautiful facsimile editions, like the Rothschild Miscellany, Meah berakhot, the Barcelona and other Hagadahs.

The gift of some 5,000 English language titles to the McGill libraries by the family of the late Saul Shapiro includes many signed first editions of Jewish interest.

The Lande Collection of Canadiana includes about 40 items of Jewish interest.

The Religious Studies Collection holds biblical and archaeological studies dealing with Judaism before the year 300 of the Common Era, including publications dealing with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The library of the Presbyterian College, historically associated with McGill, houses some extremely rare polyglot Bibles and volumes from early editions of the Bomberg Pentateuch.

Osler Library contains an incunabulum and several other early printed works by Maimonides as well as a broadside of a Papal Letter, issued by Gregory XIII in 1584, on Jewish physicians.

The Islamic Studies Library has some material in areas shared by Islam and Judaism.

The Blackader-Lauterman Library contains works on Jewish art and artists. Jewish music is represented in the holdings of the Marvin Duchow Music Library, such as the section on Jewish folksongs and cantorial music.

Books from the Shloime and Chana Wiseman collection can be consulted in the Department of Jewish Studies.

The Language Laboratory provides taped materials for students enrolled in Hebrew language courses at the elementary level.

Regional Resources

The Jewish Public Library has a rich collection in many aspects of Judaica, including an extensive collection in Yiddish language and literature, and purchases most of the current material that is still being produced in this field. The McGill bibliographer concentrates on filling in retrospective lacunae in the preWorld War II flowering of Yiddish literature.

Concordia University Webster Library collects Holocaust material comprehensively in English and selectively in French for its Azrieli Holocaust Collection. The Jewish Public Library collects extensively in this area also in Yiddish and Hebrew. The archives of the Montréal Holocaust Memorial Centre are available to the public. Consequently, only major works on the Holocaust are usually selected for the McGill collections. The Université de Montréal is an important resource for French language publications.

Jewish Canadiana archives at the Canadian Jewish Congress and in the Canadiana collection of the Jewish Public Library are important local resources.

The Jacob M. Lowy Collection, National Library of Canada, Ottawa, contains many rare Hebrew incunabula and other early printed books, including rare Bibles and other works in the field of Judaica.

General Collection Guidelines

Languages: For Bible, Rabbinics, Hebrew and Yiddish literature and other primary sources, materials are acquired in Hebrew, Aramaic, Yiddish or other languages, as appropriate. English (or occasionally French) translations of literary works are referred to the bibliographer for Comparative Literature for consideration; literary works of Jewish content, written in English or other languages, are referred to the bibliographers for English or other literatures. Important secondary works in Hebrew are acquired, but the bulk of the collection is in English, reflecting the burgeoning output of modern scholarship. English, Hebrew and Yiddish predominate, while works published in other languages, primarily French and German, are purchased selectively as funds allow.

Chronological Coverage: From biblical times to the present. (Cf. Coordination and Co-operation: Religious Studies Library).

Geographical Coverage: Worldwide; however, material emanates primarily from the United States and secondarily from Israel.

Treatment of the Subject: Scholarly.

Date of Publication: The priority is for the acquisition of current publications. In general, retrospective purchases are made whenever possible to upgrade specific areas of the collection and to supply replacements of important books which have deteriorated or disappeared.

Subjects and Levels of Collecting

Definitions of collection levels are derived from the American Library Association's Guide for Written Collection Policy Statements, 2nd. Edition, 1996.

Since the discipline of Jewish Studies is concerned with both a seminal religion and a people, the classification of Judaica spans almost the entire Library of Congress system. However, it clusters around four main, and several subsidiary, areas. The main areas are: BM (Judaism), parts of BS (Hebrew Bible), DS (Jewish history), and PJ (Hebrew and Yiddish languages and literatures). Subsidiary, but important, areas are found in: Z (Bibliography), B and BJ (Jewish philosophy and ethics), D804.3, D810.J4 (Holocaust), E184.J5 (Jews in the U.S.), FC106.J5 (Jews in Canada), M (Music), N (Art), and elsewhere.

Definitions of Collection Levels

BM1 - 65 Periodicals, societies, collections etc. 4  
BM70 - 127 Study and Teaching 3a  
BM150 - 199 History of Judaism (co-ordinated 3b with Religious Studies Library); cf. history of Jews as a people in DS101-51, E184.J5, FC106.J5 4  
BM201 - 449 History of Judaism by country    
   United States and Canada 3a  
   Latin America, West Indies 2  
   Europe 3a  
   Eastern Europe (co-ordinated with Slavic bibliographer) 4  
   Middle East and North Africa 3b  
   East and South Africa 2  
   Africa, Australia, Pacific Islands 2  
BM480 - 488 Pre-Talmudic Jewish Literature 4  
  Dead Sea Scrolls, collected by Religious Studies Bibliographer cf. BM175 4  
BM495 - 532 Sources of Jewish Religion: Mishnah, Palestine and Babylonian Talmuds, Midrash, Jewish Law, other rabbinic literature, Cabala, etc. 4  
BM534 - 755 Relation of Judaism to special fields General works on the principles of Judaism, controversial works against the Jews, Jewish polemical works, theology, practical Judaism. 3b  
Interdisciplinary Interests      
B154 - 159.5 Jewish Philosophy. General & Ancient 4  
B755 - 759 Mediaeval 4  
   Maimonides 4-  
  Modern 4  
BJ1279 - 1287 Jewish Ethics 3a  
BS701 - 1830 Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) 4-  
BS1186 Jewish criticism of the Tanakh (not confined to this number) 4  
D804.3; D810.J4 </> History of World War II - Jews; Holocaust. Cf. DS133 - 135 3a  
DS101 - 144 History of the Jews in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora.
See also E184.J5; FC106.J5
DS135.R9, etc. Jews in Eastern Europe 4+  
DS145 Anti-semitism 3a  
DS149 - 151 Zionism, Restoration, Judenstaat
Co-ordination of purchase of publications covering the last 30 years with Middle East and Islamic Studies bibliographer.
Hebrew Language and Literature    
PJ4501 - 4937 Philology, Hebrew Language: Biblical, Mishnaic and Modern 3a  
PJ5001 - 5049 Hebrew Literature. Literary history and criticism. Collections Individual Authors and Works
Individual authors and Works    
PJ5050 - 5052 Mediaeval to 1885 3a  
PJ5053 1886 - 1945 see list following 3a  
PJ5054 1946 see list following 4  
PJ5061 Mixed Jewish dialects    
PJ5111 - 5119 Yiddish Language 3a  
  Yiddish Literature Cf: Regional 4-  
PJ5120 - 5128 Resources 3a  
PJ5129  General history. Collections 3b  
PJ5140 - 5192  Individual authors: By country; translations 3a  
PJ5201 - 5239 Aramaic 3a  

List of Modern (1886-1945) Hebrew Literary Authors collected at level 3

Agnon, Shmuel Yosef Abramowitz, Shalom Jacob (Mendele Mokher Sefarim) Alterman, Nathan Bialik, Hayyim Nahman Blustein, Rachel Brenner, Joseph Hayyim Fichman, Jacob Frishman, David Gennessin, Uri Nissan Goldberg, Leah Greenberg, Uri Zvi Katzenelson, Itzhak Shalom, Shin Shlonsky, Abraham Shneur, Zalman Tchernichovski, Saul

List of Modern (post-1946) Hebrew Literary Authors collected at level 3.

Amichai, Yehuda Appelfeld, Aron Bar-Yosef, Yehoshu`a, Bartov, Hanoch Carmi, T. Gilboa, Amir Grossman, David Kaniuk, Yoram Ka-tzetnik 135633 Kenaz, Yehoshu`a Kovner, Abba Levin, Hanokh Megged, Aharon Mossenson, Yig`al Oren, Y. Orpaz, Yitshak Oz, Amos Pagis, Dan Sach, Nathan Sadeh, Pinhas Shabtai, Ya'akov Shaham, Nathan Shahar, David Shamir, Moshe Shammas, Anton Sobol, Yehoshu`a Tammuz, Benjamin Yehoshua, Abraham B.

Co-ordination and Co-operation

McLennan Reference Department: Recommendations for the purchase of reference works are forwarded to Reference.

Literature bibliographers: Consultation with English and other bibliographers takes place on an ongoing basis with regard to Hebrew or Yiddish literature translated into English, or literature composed in vernacular languages. The Slavic and East European bibliographer orders occasional Yiddish literary works from the Soviet Union.

History and Social Science bibliographers. Works on the history of Zionism up to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 are selected by the Jewish Studies bibliographer. Political works on the modern state of Israel are referred to the bibliographer for Middle East Studies, and sociological works on Jews in North America to the Sociology bibliographer. Important works which straddle discipline borderlines are discussed with the appropriate bibliographers.

Rare Books and Special Collections. There is consultation with regard to occasional rare works and important facsimile editions.

The Religious Studies Bibliographer generally collects non-Hebrew material on Judaism up to the year 300 of the Common Era, including works on the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, the Jewish Studies bibliographer selects for Jewish biblical interpretation. There is ongoing consultation with regard to topics where interests overlap, such as Jewish Christian relations. Near East archaeology is referred to the Anthropology bibliographer since all current purchasing in this field is centred in the McLennan Library.

Education Library: Occasional works which support the Jewish Teacher Training Programme are referred to the Education Library bibliographer.

Art, Music, Medicine, History of Science etc.: Important works in these areas are referred to the appropriate bibliographers.

Descriptions of the Collection

Conspectus review of "B" (Philosophy and Religion) covers Judaism, Jewish Philosophy and Ethics, Hebrew Bible and Biblical Studies. (RLG Conspectus version 1, 1986)

Fishstein, Joe. "Katalog" [197-?] (Handwritten list by J.Fishstein of many of the items in his collection).

Jewish Studies: a Selective List of Reference Sources. McLennan-Redpath Pathways.

A list on slips in the Lande Canadiana Collection subject catalogue under the heading: "Jews in Canada".

Reference Department, McLennan Library. Jewish Studies: A Guide to Reference Sources by Elaine Yarosky. 1985. Also published as ERIC document no. ED 270361)

Sigal, G. A Garment Worker's Legacy: the Joe Fishtein Collection of Yiddish Poetry. An Online Catalogue and Exhibit.

Sigal, G. "Moses Maimonides: His Works and the McGill Collection". Fontanus (v.1, 1988) p.8494.

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