Rare Judaica at Russian State Library

Rare vintage books from the Russian State Library’s massive Judaica collection went on display for the first time.

The exhibition, “Jewish Mysticism and Hassidism,” began Thursday and includes selections from the library’s holdings of more than 80,000 Jewish books and manuscripts. Sponsored by the Russian Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, it is the first such exhibit ever mounted in the country’s largest library.

It includes books from the collections of Baron David Gunzberg, Rabbi Yaakov Mazeh and the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneersohn.

Schneersohn’s library, representing pre-1915 Lubavitch publications, was confiscated by Soviet authorities in 1924 and has not been returned despite the repeated efforts of Chabad headquarters in New York.

Maria Endel of the Moscow Jewish Academic Library told JTA that the exhibition aims “to attract the attention of Russian and Western scholars to the library’s huge collection of printed Jewish mystical wisdom dating back to the 16th century.”

“You may see here books printed in Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic or, surprisingly, Latin, from Amsterdam, Venice, Istanbul, Prague, Krakow and many other towns of medieval Europe,” Konstantin Burmistrov of the library’s Oriental Literature Center told JTA. “They represent various areas of Jewish Kabbalah, from early esoteric Sefer Yetzirah to the 18th century Toldot Jakob Joseph.”

The exhibit will be on display until mid-September.

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