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Klau Library HUC Cincinnati

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Our History

The Klau Library (Cincinnati) is a Jewish research library in Cincinnati, OH. It contains one of the largest collections of Judaic and Hebraic printed material in the world and is the largest of the four libraries in the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) library system. Previously called the Hebrew Union College Library, it was renamed in 1961 in honor of David W. Klau of New York, who was a member of the College’s Board of Governors.

The library was established alongside Hebrew Union College in 1875. In 1931, the library moved into its first free-standing building, becoming the first Jewish library in the world to reside in its own building. In 1961, the library moved into its current home and was renamed Klau Library. The building underwent extensive renovations in the 2000s, and the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati Library Pavilion, the library’s grand entrance, was dedicated when renovations were completed in 2009.

The Collection
The collection began with 130 volumes, mostly textbooks, and grew rapidly in size, initially from donations from founder Isaac Mayer Wise and his family. Major acquisitions include the M. Kayserling Library (a gift from Julius Rosenwald), the A. Freiman Collection, the Louis Grossman Collection, and a collection from Temple Emanu-El in New York.

Welcome to the Klau Library

The Klau Library, Cincinnati, in quantity and quality of holdings, stands at or near the top of all American collections of Hebraica and among the strongest in the world.   The collection includes: 530,000 printed books, 1,200 current periodical subscriptions, 2,500 manuscript codices and many thousands of manuscript pages, 19,000 microfiche & 19,000 reels of microfilm, 100,000 digital images from manuscripts and early printed books, 3,300 sound recordings, 14,000 books in the Rare Book Room, and numerous non-book collections: Maps, Slides, Filmstrips, Bookplates, Stamps, Computer Programs, Games, and Kits.  

Particular strengths of the collection include Ancient Near East Studies, Archives (non-American), Bible, Cabala, Calendars, Early Christianity, History, Jewish Americana, Maimonides, Philosophy, Rabbinics, Responsa, Spinozana, Wit and Humor, and Yiddish.  

The Library is available to any resident of the Greater Cincinnati area, and also lends thousands of items yearly via interlibrary loan. Hundreds of reference questions are answered by the Library staff each year. Rare and important manuscripts, books, and special collections are lent by the Library to other institutions around the world in support of their  exhibits and scholarly research. Treasures from the Rare Book Collection, as well as topical exhibits, are displayed in the Rabbi David Ellenson Rare Book Room and in the first floor exhibit case.

Our Mission

The Klau Library, functions both as a campus library and as the main research library within the HUC-JIR Library system. Guided by the Mission Statement of the HUC-JIR Library system, the Cincinnati Library acquires, preserves and provides access to materials in printed, manuscript and other formats, supporting the teaching functions of the Rabbinic and Graduate programs and meeting the research needs of its various users: the faculty, students and staff of HUC-JIR Cincinnati; the residents of the Cincinnati metropolitan area; and the broader Judaic academic and general community both in the United States and abroad. As the main research library in the system, the Cincinnati Library provides both its depth of resources and various library services to the other HUC-JIR libraries.

Rare Collection Highlights

The collection began with 130 volumes, mostly textbooks, and grew rapidly in size, initially from donations from founder Isaac Mayer Wise and his family. Major acquisitions include the M. Kayserling Library (a gift from Julius Rosenwald), the A. Freimann Collection, the Louis Grossmann Collection, and a collection from Temple Emanu-El in New York.

Broadly, the collection currently contains:
600,000 printed books
1,200 current periodical subscriptions
2,500 manuscript codices and many thousands of manuscript pages
19,000 reels of microfilm
100,000 digital images from manuscripts and early printed books
3,300 sound recordings
14,000 books in the Rare Book Room

Non-book collections: Maps, Slides, Filmstrips, Bookplates, Stamps, Computer Programs, Games, and Kits.
Particular strengths of the collection include Ancient Near East Studies, Archives (non-American), Bible, Cabala, Calendars, Early Christianity, History, Jewish Americana, Maimonides, Philosophy, Rabbinics, Responsa, Spinozana, Wit and Humor, and Yiddish.

Kaifeng Manuscripts

Incunables and Early Hebrew Printing

The origins of the Jewish community of China likely date to the 12th or 13th centuries. Kaifeng was the largest of these Chinese Jewish settlements. The Klau Library holds manuscripts, Torah scrolls, and other materials from Kaifeng, including a bilingual Chinese-Hebrew siddur.

The Klau Library holds about 143 incunabula, including 70 Hebrew incunabula. These books date back to the very beginning of modern printing.


The Klau Library holds liturgical collections covering the geographical and historical sweep of Jewish prayer, including (but not limited to) SamaritanAleppoKaraitRomanRomanioteSephardiHasidic, and Ashkenazi rites. Most notable are the holdings in Reform liturgy from its very inception.

Birnbaum Music Collection

Eduard Birnbaum was a cantor in Königsberg in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An inveterate collector of rare books and manuscripts, he amassed one of the largest manuscript collections of Jewish liturgical music. The collection was acquired in 1923-24.

Jerusalem Spinoza Collection

Lucille Klau Carothers AJPC

HUC-JIR’s philosophy collection consists of early editions of Baruch Spinoza’s works, those of his contemporaries, scholarly works on Spinoza, and general philosophy. This philosophy collection of over 2,500 volumes was gathered in Cincinnati in 1912, and the 700 items from the Spinoza Collection have been moved to our S. Zalman and Ayala Abramov Library in Jerusalem. You can browse the Spinoza collection here.

The Lucille Klau Carothers American Jewish Periodical Center is a collection of Jewish newspapers, journals, and magazines from around the United States. These works were published in eight languages, and the collection includes both microfilm and print materials.


Welcome to the Spring 2023 Library Lecture Series. Below are the offerings for this season, featuring both HUC-JIR faculty members and guest lecturers. When registering, note the events that are Zoom-only or on-site only. All on-site events will be held on our Cincinnati campus. Please click here to learn about the presentations and to register.

Serving Our Community

The Klau Library is open to the public and we welcome local residents and visiting researchers to study and explore alongside our faculty and students. Each year our staff answer hundreds of reference questions by email, phone, mail, and Reference Chat. Rare and important manuscripts, books, and special collections are lent by the Library to other institutions around the world in support of their exhibits and scholarly research, while treasures from the Rare Book Collection are displayed in the Rabbi David Ellenson Rare Book Room and in the first floor exhibit case. 

Each semester the library hosts various lectures and programs which are open to the public, and our lecture archive is made available on our YouTube channel.  For additional information about tours, research visits, or circulation policies and renewals, email us at

Our Partnership with AJL

HUC-JIR has a long history with the Association for Jewish Libraries (AJL), starting from  AJL’s inception in 1965 under the leadership of HUC’s Director of Libraries, Herbert Zafren. Zafren’s dedication to the study of bibliography and lore was reflected in the way he united Judaica librarians across the nation to form an organized group of leaders devoted to preserving and promoting invaluable Judaica collections in research libraries, synagogues, and day schools. Following Zafren’s years as founding AJL president, other HUC librarians followed in his footsteps, serving as presidents, heading committees, and contributing to the AJL journal Judaica Librarianship. Among these are Harvey Horowitz, Phillip Miller, David Gilner, Laurel Wolfson, Yaffa Weisman, and Sheryl Stahl. Their impact on AJL involved significantly increasing membership, instituting new budgetary procedures; and developing the AJL archive of organizational minutes, records, and correspondence. HUC librarians have served on the membership committee, headed the Research Libraries division, and maintained modern AJL operations as webmaster. The entire library staff has both benefited from and contributed to the annual AJL conferences, which have been hosted in both the Klau Library of Cincinnati and in the New York Klau Library.

Plans for Our Future

Digitization and preservation are the two most significant foci of the Libraries’ attention concerning its rare books and manuscripts. The significance of the Libraries’ holdings is globally acknowledged. The Libraries receive numerous scholarly requests for images of materials in its collections from scholars from around the world. The impact of the Libraries’ collections can be felt in the volume of scholarship based on these requests. A case in point is Dov Schwartz’s book Interpretation, Preaching and Rationalism (2017), a significant part of which came about because scans of a key sole surviving relevant manuscript, housed in the Libraries, was made available online. Nothing can replace the intellectual insight based on physical experience with a tangible object. In the digital age, however, quality surrogates are essential tools in the production of knowledge. The Libraries have been at the forefront of the provision of digital imagery to its users since the 1980s, and will continue to provide this access as part of its core mission.

The second of the Libraries’ rare book and manuscript priorities is preservation. The Libraries maintain their rare book and manuscript collections in appropriate climate-controlled conditions and in secure facilities. The physical safety of these materials is essential to maintaining access to them well into the future. Books and manuscripts, however, naturally show the wear and tear of their individual histories, so it is very important to ensure they be stabilized and housed appropriately. The Libraries assess the conservation needs of the collections, and when necessary items are brought to conservators to evaluate and suggest interventions consistent with the materials’ needs and their level of use.

Our Librarians

Director of Libraries
Yoram Bitton is the Director of Libraries at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, where he manages libraries in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York and Jerusalem. His research interests are the history of Hebrew books and manuscripts. Yoram is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a degree in Talmud and Jewish History, and a Master of Library Science degree from Queens College.
Yoram Bitton, M.L.I.S. – Director of Libraries, ext. 2261, 212-824-2261

Deputy Director of Libraries
Dr. Jordan Finkin is Rare Book and Manuscript Librarian at the Klau Library, Cincinnati, where he oversees the exceptional rare book and manuscript collections of the Library. A scholar of modern Yiddish and Jewish literatures, he has published several monographs and numerous scholarly articles and essays. He is Co-Director of the Hebrew Union College Press as well as the founder and director of Naydus Press, a non-profit publisher of Yiddish literature in English translation.
Jordan Finkin, M.S., Ph.D. – Rare Book and Manuscript Librarian, ext. 3272, 513-487-3272

Head of Technical Services
Alice Finkelstein is Head of Technical Services at the Hebrew Union College Klau Library in Cincinnati. She has spent most of her career working in libraries, including public, special, school, and academic libraries. Alice has held roles in circulation, reference, collection development, cataloging, and stand-alone librarianship. Before coming to HUC/JIR, Alice worked for six years as an eLearning specialist, where her expertise was in online course design, pedagogy, and ADA compliance for digital materials. She holds an MA in English and an MS in Library and Information Science.
Alice Finkelstein, M.A., M.L.I.S. – Head of Technical Services, ext. 3294, 513-487-3294

Head of Public Services and Outreach
Abigail studied at Yeshiva University for her undergraduate degree and holds a MLIS degree from Rutgers University. After managing a large consortium of school libraries in New Jersey for several years, Abigail shifted her focus to public services and began working for the Klau Library in Cincinnati, where she now manages circulation, inter-library loan, and public programming.
Abigail Bacon, M.L.I.S. – Head of Public Services and Outreach, ext. 3279, 513-487-3279

Assistant Judaica Librarian
Joshua graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and began working part time at the Klau Library in Cincinnati in 2012. From there he went on to earn his Master of Library and Information Science from Kent State University. After graduating in 2017, he returned full-time to the Klau Library as Junior Assistant Judaica Librarian and has been with the college since. Within the library, Joshua is primarily a cataloger of new acquisitions, special collections, as well as theses and dissertations.
Joshua Fischer, M.L.I.S. – Assistant Judaica Librarian, ext. 3283, 513-487-3283

Assistant Judaica Librarian
Chana Wolfson is Assistant Judaica Librarian the Klau Library in Cincinnati. She has been with HUC-JIR for a long time, starting as a student worker at the age of 15, returning in her 20s as a technical services assistant, and achieving librarian status upon her graduation from Kent State University with an MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) in 2019. When she is not enjoying original cataloging and research at work, she enjoys the quiet of Cincinnati, the calm pace, and the fall asleep walks with her infant son to restore quiet and calm inside her house.
Chana Wolfson, M.L.I.S. – Assistant Judaica Librarian, ext. 3284, 513-487-3284

Our Support Staff

Melissa Simmons, Administrative Assistant, ext. 3276, 513-487-3276
Laura Gutmark, Hebrew Acquisitions Assistant, ext. 3280, 513-487-3280
Jeff Jordan, Library Technical Assistant, ext. 3286, 513-487-3286
Hara Jun, Inter-library Loan Assistant, ext. 3287, 513-487-3287
Wren Newmark-Weishan M.L.I.S., Digitizing Assistant, ext. 3281, 513-487-3281

Contact Us

Cincinnati Contact Info 
Mailing Address 
Klau Library, Cincinnati 
3101 Clifton Avenue 
Cincinnati, Ohio 45220-2488 

Phone and Fax 
Library Office: 
(513) 487-3276 or ext. 3276 
Fax: (513) 221-0519 
Circulation Desk (Including Reference and ILL): 
(513) 487-3287 

Important Emails
Circulation & Reference: 

New York Contact Info
Mailing Address 
Klau Library, New York 
Hebrew Union College-
Jewish Institute of Religion 
Brookdale Center 
One West 4th Street 
New York, NY 10012-1186 

Circulation Desk 
(Including Reference and ILL):
(212) 824-2258 

Important Emails 
Circulation & Reference: 

Los Angeles Contact Info 
Mailing Address 
Frances-Henry Library 
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion 
3077 University Avenue 
Los Angeles, CA 90007-3796 

Phone and Fax 
Circulation and Reference:
(213) 765-2125 ext. 4225 
Fax number: (213) 749-1937 

Important Emails 

Jerusalem Contact Info 
Mailing Address 
Abramov Library 
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion 
The Taube Family Campus 
13 King David Street 
Jerusalem 94101, Israel  

Phone and Fax 
(02) 6203270 
(02) 6203272 fax 

Important Emails 
Circulation & Reference: