Overview

The combined collections of the Center's research institutions – the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO) – constitute a repository of more than 500,000 volumes and over 100 million archival documents that together constitute the largest repository of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel. Alongside these research collections, the Yeshiva University Museum (YUM) holds nearly 20,000 museum objects, exhibiting a full spectrum of artistic, religious and cultural expression; and the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) is pioneering the documentation and study of the history and culture of Middle Eastern origins.

The partner collections range from the renaissance era in Europe to pre-colonial times in the Americas, to present-day materials from across the globe. As an example, the arrival of Jews from Recife, Brazil to the United States in 1654 spawned New York's oldest synagogue, Congregation Shearith Israel, whose papers rest within the American Jewish Historical Society and American Sephardi Federation collections. Leo Baeck Institute houses a 16th Century renaissance book collection in which arguments defend the importance of Jewish ideas and texts in a Christian world. Yeshiva University Museum holds the original letter written by Thomas Jefferson to this Congregation, in denunciation of anti-Semitism.

The Center provides access to a comprehensive literary collection, including many first editions of the seminal works of such authors as Franz Kafka, Theodor Herzl, and Else Lasker-Schuler; as well as the personal collections of such figures as Moses Mendelssohn, Karl Marx, Heinrich Heine, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein. Researchers also have access to the first Hebrew books and Jewish prayer books published in the United States; and the personal papers of prominent public figures from 18th and 19th century America such as: Haym Salomon, financier of the American Revolution; Uriah P. Levy, the nation's first Jewish Commodore and savior of Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello; Moses Michael Hays, founder of the Bank of Boston; Adolphus S. Solomons, co-founder with Clara Barton of the American Red Cross; and Emma Lazarus, poet laureate of America’s immigrants, whose collections include "The New Colossus," the handwritten original of her 1883 poem that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

American Jewish Historical Society

  • 60,000 books, many of them rare, include the first Hebrew books and Jewish prayer books published in America.
  • The A.S.W. Rosenbach collection of Judaica Americana includes over 350 books and pamphlets published in America before 1850 that relate to Jews or their experiences on the continent.
  • The Soble collection of rare books contains nearly 400 titles of 18th- and 19th-century American imprints relating to the American Jewish experience.
  • Archival records of many of the nation's major Jewish communal organizations, especially those concerned with international relief efforts and national communal defense.
  • The papers of many significant 18th- and 19th-century American political and communal Jewish leaders.
  • The papers of important 20th-century political leaders. Inquisition trial records from Mexico City in 1590.
  • Original copy of Emma Lazarus's famous poem "The New Colossus," inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
  • The papers and memorabilia of Yiddish theater and motion picture actress Molly Picon

American Sephardi Federation

Archival records of Sephardic communities and organizations. (Sephardic is used in an inclusive sense throughout.)

  • Personal histories, including an oral history of the Libyan Jewish community.
  • An audio collection of Sephardic music and liturgy.
  • A photographic collection of life in Sephardic communities.
  • The World Monuments Fund photographic collection of Sephardic sites.
  • Publications in the languages of the Sephardic communities, including prayer books.
  • Artifacts from various communities, including original art by modern Sephardic artists.
  • Reference collection on Sephardic communities throughout the world.

Leo Baeck Institute

  • 60,000 volume library covers the wide sweep of the political, cultural, social and economic history of German-speaking Jewry
  • Rarities range from early 16th-century writings to Moses Mendelssohn and Heinrich Heine; first editions of works by more recent writers; a comprehensive collection of belles lettres by Jewish writers; extensive material on the so-called "Jewish Problem" and antisemitism.
  • Broad collections of community and family histories and business reports relate to commercial enterprises owned by Jews in Germany.
  • 750 periodicals issued for or by Jews during the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Family papers, community histories and business and public records date back centuries and touch upon virtually very phase of German Jewish life.
  • A unique collection of over 1,200 memoirs written from 1790 to 1945 offer rare insights into the lives of German-speaking Jews from all walks of life.
  • Thousands of family trees, community records and other information are part of the Family Research Division.
  • A collection of more than 30,000 photographs and a large and diverse art collection supplement these materials.
  • Searchable Catalogue of the Leo Baeck Institute, containing archives, library, and periodicals catalogues.

Yeshiva University Museum

Yeshiva University Museum's diverse collection of more than 8,000 artifacts reflects an interdisciplinary approach, and includes fine and folk art, ethnographic and archaeological artifacts, clothing and textiles, Jewish ceremonial objects, documents, books and manuscripts. The collection's breadth and diversity reflects over 2,000 years of the aesthetics and sensibilities of Jews living throughout the world and co-existing in multicultural societies.

  • Archaeological artifacts dating from the Bronze Age to the Late Antique Period.
  • A 614-page illuminated manuscript from 1478 recording the Simon of Trent blood libel trial, and other historic manuscripts.
  • Cultural artifacts including the Torah scroll and Tefillin of the Baal Shem Tov (1700-1760), founder of the Hassidic movement.
  • Ceremonial ritual objects used in the synagogue from the 18th century to the present, including a Torah tas (shield) and rimmonin (finials) from Augsburg, and the Avrech Collection of contemporary Judaica.
  • Ceremonial and domestic textiles, including wimpels dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries, clothing, and accessories from around the world, such as an Ottoman bindalli wedding dress, and a Moroccan keswa el kbira (grand costume).
  • Architectural models of historical synagogues, spanning the 3rd to the 19th centuries, C.E., commissioned to mark the Museum's opening in 1973.
  • Thomas Jefferson's handwritten letter,1818, affirming religious freedom and denouncing anti-Semitism.
  • A rare, early medieval carved walnut Torah Ark Door (ca. 1040), with Islamic decorative motifs and Hebrew inscription, from the Ben Ezra Synagogue of Cairo.
  • Paintings, graphics, sculpture, and early 20th-century works of art by Israeli artists and artists from other countries, including Reuven Rubin's New Colony, Robert Indiana's Ahava, and Luis Camnitzer's installation, Leftovers.
  • Printed books, including a Bible printed in Basel in 1665, and a collection of children's books.
  • Ephemera, including political and advertising posters with texts in languages reflecting the Jewish diaspora.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

  • Library of over 350,000 volumes including the Vilna Collection of 40,000 volumes with 25,000 rabbinical works from as early as the 16th century.
  • Original communal registers and documents from Poland, Russia, Lithuania and Germany, 17th to 20th centuries.
  • Private papers of hundreds of rabbis, Yiddish writers, actors, playwrights, composers, historians, trade unionists, and other communal and political leaders.
  • World's largest collection of East European Jewish sound recordings.
  • Over 200,000 photographs and more than 400 videos and films documenting Jewish life from the late 19th century to the present.
  • Over 50,000 cultural, social, and political posters from Europe, the Americas, and Israel.
  • Documentation of the American Jewish immigrant experience, including records of early relief and rescue organizations; autobiographies of several hundred Jewish immigrants.
  • The Bund Archives and Library documenting the Jewish Labor Movement from its inception in Vilna in 1897.
  • Thousands of handwritten eyewitness accounts by Holocaust survivors and displaced persons; over 600 memorial books from Jewish communities in Poland and neighboring countries; records and documents from the Warsaw, Lodz and Vilna Ghettos.
  • World's most extensive Yiddish music and theater collection, including play manuscripts, handbills, posters, and photographs.