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Collection Development Policy

Rabbinics & Classical Hebrew

Rabbinics & Classical Hebrew
Beth Bidlack
April 2009

Brief overview of the collection

History: Hebraica has been an important field of research at the University of Chicago since its founding in 1892. In fact, the University’s first president, William Rainey Harper, was a well-known Semitist. Built by many subject specialists over the years, the collections in Classical Hebraica/Rabbinics (and the broader field of Jewish Studies) have been shaped by many librarians and faculty of the University and by individuals whose private collections have been acquired and integrated into the Library’s collections. The largest of these is the Ludwig Rosenberger Library of Judaica (housed in the Special Collections Research Center), a collection of over 17,000 titles documenting the social, cultural, and political history of the Jewish people. Another private collection which has greatly enhanced the Library’s collections in Jewish Studies, especially in the study of Maimonides, is the library of the late Marvin Fox (1922-1996). Many books from Professor Fox’s library were added to the Library’s circulating collection, and portions of his library were the foundation of the current Judaica Reference Collection, located in the fourth-floor reading area.

Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized: The Rabbinics collection focuses on the academic study of Rabbinic literature rather than a “confessional” study with a focus on religious practice. The following areas are emphasized: critical editions of primary texts and works by classical commentators; important works on Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash; Responsa; Kabbala and mysticism; and Medieval Jewish philosophy. There is a special emphasis on works first published from manuscripts or new editions of classical works with corrections or additions.

Description of academic programs: Within the Divinity School there are ten areas of study. Three of these areas—Biblical Studies, the History of Christianity, and the History of Judaism—are “housed” under the Committee on Historical Studies in Religion. In addition, the University has a Committee on Jewish Studies.

Audience/Purpose: The collection supports the research and teaching of faculty and students in the Divinity School and the Committee on Jewish Studies. In addition, it supports the interdisciplinary research of the University of Chicago (e.g., faculty and students in the History, Art History, and Music Departments).

Collecting guidelines

Levels of selection (comprehensive, research, instructional support, basic information; for a description of these levels, see the general policy statement.

The Library collects the following areas of Rabbinics at a research level:

  • BM198 Hasidism
  • BM480-488.8 Pre-Talmudic Jewish literature (non-Biblical)
  • BM497 Mishnah
  • BM498 Palestinian Talmud (Yerushalmi)
  • BM499-504.7 Babylonian Talmud (Bavli)
  • BM504 Talmud commentary sets (e.g.Rashba; Ritva; Ramban; Meiri; Ran; Tosfot ha-Rosh; Shitah Mekubetset)
  • BM506 Talmud commentary per tractate
  • BM507-507.5 Baraita
  • BM508 Tosefta
  • BM510-518 Midrash
  • BM520-523.7 Halacha
  • BM520.84 Mishneh Torah
  • BM520.88 Shulhan Arukh
  • BM522 Responsa
  • BM525-526 Kabbalah

Type of materials included & excluded: The following types of material are usually excluded: introductory textbooks; anthologies of previously published materials; professional handbooks and devotional materials; popular works in Jewish spirituality and mysticism; most unrevised theses and dissertations; and self-published Bible and Talmud commentaries.

Physical formats included & excluded: All formats are included. Among the notable full-text electronic resources are the Bar-Ilan Online Responsa Project, the Sol and Evelyn Henkind Talmud Text Databank, Soncino Classics, and RAMBI.

Publication dates collected: The focus is on currently-published materials, with some retrospective purchasing (e.g., resulting from the appointment of new faculty members, the development of new academic programs, patron requests).

Languages: Primarily Hebrew, secondarily English and German.

Geographical range: The focus is on materials published in Israel, but includes materials published worldwide.

Selection process: The Library has a Rabbinics approval plan with Jerusalem Books. The selector also uses “slips” and catalogs from Jerusalem Books, patron requests, and announcements and catalogs from other vendors (e.g., Rubin Mass, Schwartz, Dan Wyman) to firm order Rabbinics materials.

Areas of distinction

The Ludwig Rosenberger Collection of Judaica and the recently acquired Harry and Branka Sondheim Jewish Heritage Collection, both housed in the Special Collections Research Center.

Related University of Chicago collections

The Rabbinics collection is complemented by the following collections: Religion, Slavic and Eastern European Studies, the Ancient Near East and the library at the Oriental Institute, Medieval and Byzantine Studies, Philosophy, and General Humanities.

Cooperative arrangements and related collections

The University of Chicago Library has a reciprocal borrowing agreement the CIC schools, including Ohio State University (which has a strong Rabbinics collection), Indiana University (which has a strong Jewish Studies collection), and the University of Minnesota (which has a strong program in the Bible and Ancient Near East). The Center for Research Libraries has a collection of dissertations from Israel. The Asher Library at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is also an important collection in Chicago.

Subject Specialist

Profile Photo
Anne Knafl
Joseph Regenstein Library, Room 462