General Description & Guidelines

The Jewish Studies Librarian is responsible for selection, acquisition, and processing of all materials relating to Israel in all languages. The Librarian is also responsible for the selection of all materials about Jewish Studies in Western languages and in Hebrew, Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, and Ladino, and shares selection responsibility for materials in Slavic languages.

Presently, the Jewish Studies Collection consists of over 125,000 volumes and nearly 1,500 journal titles, in addition to manuscripts, multi-media, microform collections, and a variety of electronic resources.  About 60,000 titles are in Yiddish or Hebrew, with Western, Russian, and Slavic languages comprising most of the remainder.  The Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds the largest collection of Hebrew manuscripts in a secular research library in the US (approximately 1,650 manuscripts), as well as 30 incunabula and over 300 sixteenth century imprints.  In addition to Western (i.e. English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian), Russian, and Slavic languages, Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, and Judeo-Persian are all represented in the collections. 

We collect both trade and scholarly materials, including books, serials, government documents, audiovisual items, etc.  Databases and primary sources are acquired as they become available.

Selection of material to be acquired is based on the following criteria:


We collect in virtually all areas relevant to Israel and Jewish Studies, with the exception of modern law (see Pegasus, the online catalog of the Columbia Law Library for books on Israeli and Jewish law), science and technology, medicine, children's books, cook books, and textbooks. There is a strong emphasis on collecting in the fields of History, Religion (with exception of most Rabbinical works), language and literature, and the social sciences. A special interest has been Israeli-Arab relations, and we have an extensive collection in Arabic, English and Hebrew on this topic. Finally, reference works and biblographies are collected extensively.


By far the largest of the non-English collections in Jewish Studies is Hebrew, followed by Yiddish, with some books in other Jewish languages such as Ladino. For books in vernacular languages, we collect only those with some relevance to Israel, Jews (anywhere in the world), Judaism, etc. For example, we would not acquire a book in Hebrew on Greek philosophy. We try to be as comprehensive as possible in collecting English language books dealing with Jewish Studies. While we collect extensively in other Western languages, they normally have to be relevant to the subject. There is also an important component dealing with Jews in the former Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe, including many works in most of the languages of the region (e.g. those housed in the Russian, Eurasian, and East European Collection).

Geographic Area

The geographic area covered consists of the State of Israel and the full reach of the Jewish Diaspora.

Historical Period

While we collect Jewish Studies materials from earliest antiquity, the emphasis of our collection is on the modern period. We make every effort to keep up with current publications and to acquire every new book of scholarly merit in this field.

General Considerations

  • For books published in Israel, we rely mostly on blanket orders, with specific purchases where necessary or as requested. In addition, Jewish Studies is part of the profiles for all of our Approval Plans for monographs published in the United States, UK, Europe, Russia, etc.
  • As a general rule, vernacular materials are never duplicated. Western language materials and especially those in English may have added copies or copies in more than one library according to perceived need. When new editions appear, they are purchased if they are not in CLIO (the Columbia Online Catalog) or if they substantially enlarge, update or improve the previous editions. The same is true for reprints of earlier editions.  An exception to this is translations to English of particularly important pieces of Israeli scholarship and/or literature.
  • Periodicals and newspapers are collected selectively. Periodicals are cataloged for the appropriate library and bound volumes are in the stacks. Newspapers from Israel (e.g. Ha-Aretz) are housed in Lehman Library and, where available, accessible electronically via CLIO. Microfilms of newspapers are cataloged into CLIO as well.
  • Columbia has several cooperative agreements with other institutions. BorrowDirect allows students and faculty to borrow books from other universities within the Ivy League system. Faculty and graduate students can take advantage of MaRLI, which allows them to borrow books from the NYPL research division (especially the Dorot Jewish Division) as well as NYU.  In a like manner, we have a close cooperative relationship with the Jewish Theological Seminary and our students can use their library and borrow their books.
  • Columbia is also a member of the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago. While not as strong in Jewish Studies materials as in other areas, the Center does have many expensive sets and long runs of newspapers on microfilm. These can be borrowed on Interlibrary Loan and provide a great supplement to our own holdings in these areas.
  • Gifts are welcomed as long as the Libraries are free to decide whether or not to add all the material to its collections. The final decision rests with the Jewish Studies Librarian. Materials not added to the collections are used for exchange, sold to students and faculty, etc.
  • Suggestions for additions to the collection are always welcome from students and faculty. If it is a book that is recommended, and it is available, every effort will be made to acquire it. If it is a periodical or newspaper that is being recommended, a decision is made in consultation with the library that will house it, as they must pay for the subscription, mailing, and binding costs as an ongoing commitment.