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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Library of Congress
African and Middle Eastern Division: Hebraic Section

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, Room LJ220
Washington, DC 20540-4820
Telephone Number: (202) 707-5422
Fax Number: (202) 252-3180
Contact Persons: Dr. Michael Grunberger, Head, Hebraic Section
Dr. Peggy K. Pearlstein, Area Specialist, Hebraic Section
Ms. Sharon S. Horowitz, Reference Librarian, Hebraic Section
Email Address:[email protected]
Internet Catalog Address:

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 8:30 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Weekends/Federal holidays Closed
Open to the public: Yes
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: Yes, with restrictions.

The primary mission of the Library of Congress is to serve Members of Congress and thereafter, the needs of the government, other libraries, and members of the public, universities, and learned societies.

A Library of Congress Reader Registration Card is required to use the reading room for the African and Middle Eastern Division. To obtain a registration card, applicants must be 18 years of age or older and present photo identification bearing a verifiable permanent address. The cards are issued without charge in Room G40 of the Jefferson Building. Enter on the Second Street side of the Jefferson Building to locate this room.

Photocopying can be done by researchers with coin or debit card. Photocopying depends on condition, age and size of items. The Library of Congress' Photoduplication Service can provide a wide range of reproductions of the Library's collection, such as single page photocopies, microforms, or color slides. The ability of the Library to furnish reproductions is subject to copyright and other restrictions. Photoduplication Services is open 9:00 a.m.--4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Further information on products and services can be obtained by contacting Photoduplication Services, Public Services Section, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4570. Telephone: (202) 707-5640. Fax: (202) 707-1771. TTY: (202) 855-1234.

The Library of Congress is an interlibrary loan source of material not readily available through local, state, or regional libraries. Requests are accepted from recognized libraries that are listed in standard directories or are affiliated with networks and that make their own materials available on interlibrary loan. Certain rare, brittle, and other materials are not available for loan.

Reference Policy:
The services of the African and Middle Eastern Division are offered to the Congress, government agencies, other libraries, and the public. Readers can receive in-person assistance in the African & Middle Eastern Reading Room as well as assistance by telephone, mail, FAX, and e-mail. In-person readers must obtain a Reader Registration Card to use the collections.

Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution. There is limited borrowing for the public using interlibrary loan through the individual's public library. Restrictions exist taking depending on the condition, rarity, size, and frequency of use of an item.

RLIN. Hebraic items have been entered into RLIN since 1988. RLIN provides the only online vernacular access to items in Hebrew and Yiddish. One can use Eureka, an RLIN-based service, but it will only provide romanized records. The Hebraic Section will do OCLC or RLIN searches for readers on a very limited basis.

Background Note:
The Hebraic Section of the Library of Congress was established in 1914 as part of the Division of Semitica and Oriental Literature. A gift of 10,000 volumes collected by bibliographer Ephraim Deinard and donated to the Library by philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff in 1912 formed the nucleus of the collection.
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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
There are more than 150,000 volumes in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and related languages. A substantial portion of these are religion or religion-related. Inclusive publication dates of this collection are 16th century to the present.

The section's holdings are especially strong in the areas of the Bible, rabbinics, liturgy, and responsa (collections of decisions in Jewish law by individuals or multiple authors). An extensive collection of Passover Haggadot has been assembled as well. Books in the collection have been printed in Israel, Europe, the United States, and many other countries worldwide. Also available are some 1,000 Memorial Books, (local histories of Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust), which document the history of the community and its religious life. Most of this collection is in the Hebraic Section, while those books in western languages can be found in the general collections.

The card catalog is current to 1980. It is divided into author/subject and vernacular title sections. It includes national union catalogs of Hebraica and Yiddica. The LC database is incomplete for holdings of the Hebraic Section--some titles remain unclassified, and some classified material is not in the LC database. All Hebrew and Yiddish material cataloged since 1988 appears in the RLIN database.

Periodicals and newspapers:
The section receives a variety of Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers reflecting all shades of opinion, from the religious to the secular, from the far right to the extreme left. Older newspapers and periodicals are in microform. This international collection attempts to span the religious spectrum of Judaism. Examples of current newspapers include Ha-Arets, Yated Ne'eman, Algemeyner Zhurnal, and the Forverts.

A number of Hebrew and Yiddish periodicals and newspapers can be located only via the Section's card catalog.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
The Hebraic section has about 200 manuscripts in Hebrew; 17 in Samaritan; 5 in Ge'ez (Ethiopian church language). The section's most noteworthy treasure is The Washington Haggadah, a 15th-century illuminated manuscript signed by Joel ben Simeon. Other singular manuscript items include a Hebrew translation of the Qur'an, an 18th-century Italian decorated Scroll of Esther, and an early Ethiopian Psalter in Ge'ez. Among the more than 2,000 rarities in the special collections of the section are cuneiform tablets, incunables, several kettubot (Jewish marriage documents), micrographies, miniature books, and amulets. Inclusive dates of this collection are from the 13th through the 20th centuries. One may find oral histories of Holocaust survivors and immigrants to Israel detailing religious persecution as well as microforms from the New York Times Oral History Program, which contains microfilmed oral histories from Israel.

Most of these manuscripts and oral histories are listed in the Section's card catalog..

This collection includes several thousand titles in various collections. They are international in scope and span the religious spectrum from left to right. A few representative titles are: The Collective Catalogue of Hebrew Manuscripts from the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts and the Department of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, The Kaufmann Collection which includes Genizah fragments, the Hebrew Manuscript Catalogs from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and The Guenzburg Manuscript Collection in the Russian State Library, Moscow.

Records for collections are online (but not item level cataloging), others are in the Section's catalog and/or contained in collection guides.

Please see the Geography and Map Division entry.

Videos and Sound Recordings:
Please see the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division entry.

Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
Please see the Prints and Photographs Division entry.

Databases, CD-ROMS, and other machine-readable sources:
Bibliography of the Hebrew Book; Torah La-Am Library; Soncino Talmud; Bar Ilan Responsa Project; Davka Judaica Classics Library; Dead Sea Scrolls Revealed; Book of Legends.

Subject Headings

Anti-Semitism; Apocryphal books (Hebrew Bible); Bible; Fasts and feasts--Judaism; God (Judaism); Hasidism; Holocaust (Jewish theology); Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945); Israel--Religion; Jewish law; Jewish philosophy; Judaism; Judaism--Customs and practices; Judaism--Sacred books; Rabbinical literature; Responsa (Jewish law); Ritual--Judaism; Talmud


Karp, Abraham J. From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress. Washington, DC, 1991.

Besso, Henry V. comp. Ladino Books in the Library of Congress, A Bibliography. Washington, DC, 1963.

To contact the institution described in this entry, please use the contact information at the top of this page.
To submit updates and corrections for this entry, please use our comments form.
To ask a reference question, please use our Ask a Librarian form.
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  September 13, 2011
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