Jewish Enlightenment Collection Joins Cornell’s Rare Books

500 Works from the 18th and 19th Centuries Add Significant Dimension to Jewish Studies


Contact: Patrick J. Stevens
Phone:  (607) 255-3530

ITHACA, N.Y. (Sept. 10, 2014) – Some 500 works on the Haskalah — the Jewish Enlightenment in Europe that began in the second half of the 18th century — have arrived in the Cornell University Library, thanks to the generosity of an alumnus.

The books and ephemeral publications on the Haskalah will strengthen the Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC) as a growing repository for collections in Jewish intellectual history, joining the papers of historian and legal expert Guido Kisch and Cornell’s own Professor Isaac Rabinowitz, first chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies. Donation of the Steven M. Glazer Collection of Leopold Zunz Material in 2013 provided significant impetus for acquiring the Haskalah collection.

While much of the Haskalah material is in literary Hebrew, there are also many works in German. A compilation of rare pamphlets in Hungarian preserves a number of rabbinical sermons from that country. Places of publication range from Amsterdam to Odessa.

Antiquarian bookseller Joseph Goldman stated he had “collected and searched for [these books] over many years,” and that it “would be impossible to put together a collection such as this one today.”

Acquisition of the Haskalah collection was made possible through the generosity of Steven Chernys ’83. Patrick J. Stevens, a curator in RMC and librarian for Jewish Studies, coordinated acquisition of the collection and is directing a cataloguing initiative during the next two years to make the books available for research.

“Research on the writings of the Haskalah will undoubtedly underscore the dynamism of European Jewish thinkers,” noted Stevens. “What is equally impressive is the literary creativity in poetic Hebrew during the Haskalah period. Steven Chernys’ generosity has made it possible for scholars of European Jewish intellectual history to consider the Haskalah from multiple linguistic and textual perspectives within the holdings of this one collection.”

To learn more

View a guide to Jewish Studies at Cornell University Library, and visit the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and Cornell University Library online.