Jerusalem (Apr. 15)
The founders of the Hebrew University are aiming to create a home for Jewish learning and Jewish ideals where Jewish culture can freely develop a laison between the civilizations of the Eastern and Western world and are aiming to make the University a center of learning and research open to all students regardless of nationality, creed or race which is a worthy ambition, declared Sir John Chancellor, High Commissioner of Palestine, today, in opening the David Wolffsohn House, the Jewish National Library here today.
The quarter of a million dollar structure which now houses 300,000 volumes and has room for a quarter of a million more was dedicated in the presence of high government officials, Jewish leaders, foreign consuls, but no Arabs, although many of them were invited in the amphitheatre on Mt. Scopus.
The opening address was made by Dr. Judah L. Magnes, chancellor of the Hebrew University who recalled the memory of Lord Balfour and thanked all who had made possible the Library building. He also mentioned David Wolffsohn, the Dutch financier and second president of the World Zionist Organization, for whom the structure is named.
Among those who made possible the Library, Dr. Magnes said, were the Deutschebank in Berlin with a loan of $24,080; Judge Julian Mack, loan of $10,265; Felix M. Warburg, gift of $28,670; Morris Symonds of Sydney with a donation of $25,000, David Simon of Detroit with a donation of $5,000, the Berlin Committee of the Friends of the Hebrew University which undertook to raise $25,000. Dr. Magnes termed the library “a tower of light and learning. May its rays fall beneficently over the Holy City and over all the inhabitants of this old land.”
In the first part of his address the High Commissioner referred to the late Lord Balfour and said “the universal tributes that have been paid to his memory by Jewish communities in all quarters of the world have greatly touched Lord Balfour’s compatriots and friends.” Sir John said that “the opening of the Library marks an important step in the development of the University’s activities. The site is one of the most beautiful and historic in the world which must be worthily used.” He praised the intention of the University to establish a residential quarter for students and professors and wished that the plans of the University’s founders be fulfilled and declared the Library open.
Dr. Hugo Bergman, the librarian, outlined the history of the Library and its difficulties since its foundation in 1892 by Dr. Joseph Chasanovitch, a Lithuanian physician who had himself collected 9,000 volumes. He recalled Sir Moses Montefiore’s first donation of $25 and the American Zionists’ first large book collection in 1920.
He pointed out that the Library is “first the national library of the Jewish people gathering all books relating to Jews and Judaism, secondly the Library of the University gathering books on all branches of arts and sciences, and thirdly the Library of Palestine serving all professions and all sections of the population regardless of creed.”
Congratulatory messages were received from Dr. Chaim Weizman, president of the World Zionist Organization, the Egyptian Minister of Education, the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Professors Israel Davidson, Louis Ginzberg of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the various Societies and Friends of the Hebrew University. The dedication ceremonies were opened and concluded with a music festival at which a program of classical and folk music was given by massed choirs of over two hundred voices. A tablet with the inscription “Beth David Wolffsohn” was unveiled by the High Commissioner in honor of the donor of the Library Building.
The Library, which is the principal building erected by the University since its opening in 1925, is of native stone, and occupies a commanding position on Mt. Scopus, overlooking Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. Begun nearly three years ago, it was erected under the supervision of Julius Lasker, construction engineer of Boston.
The Wolffsohn Library contains the Jewish National Library founded by Dr. Chasanovitch, the large library left by Baron David Ginsberg, which was purchased in 1917 for half a million roubles, and the mathematical library of Professor Klein of the University of Goettingen. It issues a quarterly bibliographical review containing a list of all publications on any subject appearing in Palestine and of all publications on Jewish subjects appearing throughout the world, together with reviews and essays on the manuscript material to be found in the Library.
Approximately two hundred men and women, including Arabs, were engaged on the construction of the Library, and another hundred in the preparation of the materials. Women did all of the tiling and some of the stone dressing and plastering. Many of the workmen were from Eastern Europe, most of them scholars and students, unused to manual labor. Students acted as excavators and the Student Organization divided the work among needy students, who were used where possible as a means of helping them pay their expenses.