It's not common for public libraries to have collections of rare books. One tends to
find them in universities, museums, and large national libraries who have greater
access to the proper funding to preserve and treat these volumes to the right temperature,
humidity, and light. One would also be more likely to find polyglot librarians with a
fluency in Latin, Turkish, or ancient Semitic languages.
Dr. Yehudah Kaufmann, one of the founders of the Library along with Reuven Brainin
studied Semitic languages and philosophy at McGill around 1913. According to one of the
early histories of the JPL, he made frequent trips to Philadelphia and New York and acquired
a collection of very old Hebrew books. The collection was further developed following the
Holocaust when the Allied Occupation Forces in Europe discovered books and religious articles
in various locations throughout Europe. They distributed them to various Jewish institutions
in the Allied Countries, and subsequently Israel. Holocaust survivors and their children
also donated books to this collection throughout the years.
The rare book collection mainly consists of Hebrew books, but there are volumes in Latin,
Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, German, Italian, Dutch, and Yiddish. As funding becomes
available, the Library will digitize selections from the collection and make them
viewable on our web page. Please check back periodically.