A World-Class Collection
The JTS Library’s Special Collections are world-class. With the largest collection of Hebrew manuscripts on earth, the most complete collection of early Hebrew printed books (incunables), 43,000 fragments from the Cairo Genizah, and much more, there are few collections that offer students, scholars, and visitors material of such quality, depth, and breadth.
Our Outstanding Rare Materials Include:
- Hebrew Manuscripts: With 11,000 Hebrew manuscripts, JTS has the largest such collection in the world. Among outstanding sub-collections are those in rabbinics (over 2,500), Bible, Jewish philosophy and poetry, liturgy, and philology. Images of many manuscripts, including those digitized by the Polonsky Digitization Project, are available through the Library catalog.
- Genizah Fragments: From the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, representing Jewish life in the eastern Mediterranean world and beyond from the 10th to the 19th centuries. Outstanding examples include a letter signed by Maimonides and a handwritten letter by the great Hebrew philosopher and poet Judah Halevi. Our collection of Genizah fragments may be viewed online at the Friedberg Genizah Project.
- Incunables: Hebrew books printed from the birth of movable-type print through 1500, illustrating the interests and commitment of Jews in the 15th century.
- Ketubbot: Over 500 Jewish marriage contracts, providing evidence of Jewish art and culture from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Digitized images are available through our special collections link.
- Broadsides: 4,000 rare and significant pieces spanning the 16th to the 20th centuries from communities in Europe, Israel, the Near East, and America. Broadsides are sheets printed on one side, including posters, handbills, or signs. The collection includes poems and prayers, Kabbalistic writings, genealogical charts, micrographs, maps, and legal documents. Some are available online; please consult a librarian.
- Scrolls: 430 scrolls, including Torah and Haftarah scrolls, Kabbalistic scrolls, and 300 Esther scrolls, some of them decorated.
- Archives: Our more than 400 archival collections date from the 19th century to the present and include material representing the history of Jews in the United States, Europe, North Africa, and Israel, with a focus on the Conservative Movement in the 20th century. We also hold significant Jewish music archives. Guides (finding aids) for specific archival collections can be accessed by clicking “Search the Archives” above.
Visiting the Rare Book Room
Polonsky Digitization Lab
The Library has an active digitization program, providing online access to thousands of digital images, many of them one-of-a-kind manuscripts, with more being added every day. Most of these images were created in the Library’s Polonsky Digitization Lab in Memory of Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, which was dedicated in 2015, and many were the product of the Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky Digitization Project.
The Library’s Conservation Department is responsible for the protection, stabilization, and repair of rare materials for in-house exhibitions as well as loans to other institutions. It is the care and expertise of our conservators that make possible our aggressive loan and digitization programs. Without their extraordinary skills, it would be impossible for us to protect our rare materials while providing wide access to these treasures.
Loans for Exhibition
The Library of JTS is happy to loan items from its Special Collections for exhibit at museums and other venues. There will be no interruption in this service during our construction. If you are a curator looking for items of historical or artistic value, we are happy to consult and to recommend specific works. Learn more about our loan policies and guidelines.