Friday, October 29, 2010

Columbia Libraries Receive $4 Million for Jewish Studies

Columbia Libraries Receive $4 Million for Norman E. Alexander Library
for Jewish Studies

NEW YORK, October 27, 2010 - The Columbia University Libraries have
received a gift of $4 million to establish the Norman E. Alexander
Library for Jewish Studies which will include three new endowments: a
Jewish Studies Librarian, the General Jewish Studies Collection and
the Special Collections in Judaica.

The new Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies is Michelle
Chesner. She joined the Columbia Libraries in May 2010, coming from
the University of Pennsylvania where she served as an archivist and
as the Judaica Public Services Librarian at the Katz Center for
Advanced Judaic Studies. Previously, Chesner was a research assistant
at Kestenbaum, a cataloger at NYU, and a special collections
assistant at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Her research interests
include 15th century Jewish history and the early Hebrew book.

The new Norman E. Alexander Library for Jewish Studies in special
collections builds on a strong tradition of rare book and archival
resources, including 29 Hebrew incunabula, over 300 sixteenth-century
printed books, and nearly 1,500 Hebrew manuscripts, plus extensive
archival collections related to Jewish life and culture, and Jewish
individuals in all fields of study and work. In 1947, the Libraries
acquired the magnificent Oko-Gebhardt Spinoza Collection, consisting
of almost 4,000 books by and about the Dutch Jewish philosopher and
in 2009 acquired the papers of Yosef Yerushalmi, the Columbia faculty
member and groundbreaking and wide ranging scholar of Jewish history.
Funds from this endowment are initially being focused on a project to
catalog the Hebrew manuscripts collection, the second largest in North America.

The Jewish Studies research collections at Columbia exceed 100,000
monograph volumes and 1,000 current and historical periodical titles.
The collection comprises about 60,000 Hebrew and Yiddish titles in
addition to its large holdings of Jewish scholarly works in Western
and Slavic languages. Columbia also subscribes to many electronic
titles, both ebooks and databases, which pertain to Jewish Studies,
and is the only repository in New York City for the Visual History
Archive of the Shoah Foundation.

Norman E. Alexander graduated from Columbia University in 1934 and
Columbia Law School in 1936, after which he set off on a business
career that spanned seven decades. When he died in 2006, he was
Executive Chairman of Sequa Corporation, a $2 billion conglomerate
that he led for nearly 50 years. A lifelong supporter of academic,
Jewish and other philanthropic causes, Mr. Alexander was a member of
the Board of Visitors of Columbia Law School and of the Board of
Columbia/Barnard Hillel, where he established the Alexander Program
Center for Jewish Life. In 1985 he received the University's John Jay
Award for outstanding service and in 2008 the Norman E. Alexander
Scholarships were endowed at the Columbia Law School. His advocacy of
Jewish culture and tradition took many forms. He was a patron and
trustee of The Jewish Museum and a governor and Vice President of the
American Jewish Committee. He was a longstanding member of the
publication committee of Commentary Magazine, a founding member of
the board of The Jewish Week, and a major supporter of UJA-Federation
as well as Temple Kol Ami in White Plains, NY. In addition, he
supported the Jewish Publication Society, was a founder and board
member of the Albert Einstein Medical College and was a founding
trustee of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. He also served on
the boards of Bronx Lebanon Hospital and as chairman of New York
Medical College.

"We're delighted that the generosity bestowed by Norman E. Alexander
has enabled Columbia, which for many decades has been a leader in
Jewish Studies, to build on those strengths in its world-class
library system. We hope and look forward to working with Michelle
Chesner, to strengthening the collection, and making it useful and
available to undergraduates, graduates and the whole scholarly
community," said Jeremy Dauber, director of The Institute for Israel
and Jewish Studies. "The Norman Alexander Library for Jewish Studies
is an investment in our students, our faculty, and in the many
scholars whose learning and research will benefit from the
outstanding collections and services at Columbia," stated James Neal,
Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top
five academic research library systems in North America. The
collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals
and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts,
rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The
services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various
academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 470
professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries at is the gateway to its services and resources.

Contact: Laura Kenna, 212-854-4692,