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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 boasts one of the largest collections of Jewish 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 (Jewish year 5721) in honor of David W. Klau of New York, who was a member of the College’s Board of Governors.

The library was established in 1875 (c. Jewish year 5635), alongside the school, making it one of the oldest Jewish institutional libraries in the United States. In 1931 (Jewish year 5691), 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 (Jewish year 5721), 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 in 2009 (Jewish year 5770). 

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 wealth and breadth of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections holdings of the Library make it one of the largest and finest Judaica libraries in the world. It would be impossible to categorize in a few words the depth and diversity of the Library’s collections. Instead, here are a few highlights.

Kaifeng Manuscripts

Incunables and Early Hebrew Printing

The origins of the Jewish community of China likely date to the 12th or 13th centuries. Very few manuscripts from Kaifeng, the community’s largest settlement, survive. The Klau Library holds 59 of 64 known manuscripts (apart from Torah scrolls), the most significant such collection in the world.

Since the advent of movable type in the 15th century, Hebrew was the third language to appear in printed books. The Klau Library holds one of the world’s largest and most significant collections of Hebrew books printed in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Please view more materials on our manuscript site.

Liturgy

Birnbaum Music Collection

From a Genizah fragment of an Italian convert in the 12th century to cutting-edge contemporary Haggadot, the Klau Library holds liturgical collections covering the geographical and historical sweep of Jewish prayer, including Samaritan, Aleppo, Karaite, Roman, Romaniote, Sephardi, Hasidic, and Ashkenazi rites, just to name a few. Especially large are the holdings in Reform liturgy from its very inception.

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, an archive currently in the process of digitization.  Please view more materials on our music site.

Programming

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 klau@huc.edu.

Our Partnership with AJL

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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

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

Rare Book and Manuscript Librarian
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 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. 3388, 513-487-3088

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: klau@huc.edu 
ILL: ill.cn@huc.edu 
Visitors: klauvisitor@huc.edu 

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 

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

Important Emails 
Circulation & Reference: nycirculation@huc.edu 
ILL: ill.ny@huc.edu 

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 
ILL: ill.la@huc.edu 

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: abramov@huc.edu