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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Why Do Jewish Libraries Exist? Seminar

29 November 2022
Online via Zoom

For more information regarding this seminar, please email .

Event details

Part of the 2022/23 Parkes Institute Research Seminar Series.

Why do Jewish libraries exist? The answer may seem obvious, but in fact there are a large number of reasons why Jewish library and archival collections could be brought into being. This Parkes research seminar will examine the long and short histories of such libraries, ranging over the past three hundred years and involving both circumstances of chance as well as deliberate purpose.

We will be focusing on three case studies. First, the remarkable library of David Oppenheim (1664-1736) chief rabbi of Prague, who built up an unparalleled collection of Jewish books and manuscripts – which have survived in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Second, there is the library and archive at the University of Southampton of James Parkes (1896-1981), whose collection was the result of his tireless campaigning on behalf of Jewish identity and religious tolerance. Third, there are the rich papers of Cecil Roth (1899-1970), a British Jewish historian who was an enthusiastic collector of Judaism-related manuscripts and artefacts; they are housed partly in the Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

We will be discussing the key priorities and motivations of these three collectors (Oppenheim, Parkes, Roth), how and why their collections have been preserved, and the issue of their mobility, special character, and transnational appeal. Why did these libraries reach their present location, and what can that tell us about the complex nature of modern Jewish history?

The seminar, chaired by Mark Cornwall, will involve three speakers:

  • Joshua Teplitsky (University of Pennsylvania), author of an award-winning book about the Oppenheim collection: Prince of the Press: How One Collector Built History’s Most Enduring and Remarkable Jewish Library (2019)
  • Karen Robson, Head of the Parkes Archive and Special Collections, University of Southampton; Jenny Ruthven, Special Collections Librarian.
  • Eva Frojmovic, Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Leeds

About the Speakers
Joshua Teplitsky is an associate professor and the Joseph Meyerhoff Chair in Modern Jewish History at the University of Pennsylvania. He has held fellowships at the University of Oxford, the National Library of Israel, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University. His book, Prince of the Press: How One Collector Built History's Most Enduring and Remarkable Jewish Library was published by Yale University Press in 2019 and was named the winner of the Salo Baron Prize of the AAJR for best first book in Jewish Studies in 2019, the 2020 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award of the Association for Jewish Studies and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. He is the editor, with Warren Klein and Sharon Liberman Mintz of Be Fruitful! The Etrog in Jewish Art, Culture, and History (Mineged, 2022). He is an Associate Editor of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Book Cultures. He also co-leads a digital humanities project called Footprints: Jewish Books through time and place, which tracks the movement of Jewish books since the inception of print. He is currently at work on a book reconstructing a plague epidemic in eighteenth-century Prague and its impact on Jewish social and cultural life in the city.

Eva Frojmovic is the director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Leeds. Her research is about illuminated Hebrew manuscripts and Jewish museum and library collections. Her most recent essay, “Disorienting Hebrew Book Collecting”, was published in Disturbing Times: Medieval Pasts, Reimagined Futures, eds C.E. Karkov, A. Klosowska, and V.W.J. van Gerven Oei, Punctum Books 2020, available here .

Joshua Teplitsky
Joshua Teplitsky
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