Leon Levy Foundation gives $860k to Center for Jewish History

The Leon Levy Foundation will give some $860,000 to the Center for Jewish History to help preserve and expand the center’s historical archives.

For the details, here is the press release:

Leon Levy Foundation Awards Additional $860,092 Grant To Center for Jewish History For Preservation of Archival Materials

NEW YORK, NY, June 30, 2010 — The Center for Jewish History, dedicated to the preservation and presentation of Jewish history, culture and experience across countries and generations, has received an $860,092 grant from the Leon Levy Foundation. As one of the rare philanthropies to appreciate the significance of archival processing in preservation efforts, the Foundation has made a three-year commitment that will enable the Center to process thousands of linear feet of its partners’ archival collections, create an institutional archive, and formally assess the preservation needs of the collections to ensure their future use. The new award follows a three-year Leon Levy Archives grant made in 2007, which funded an initiative to process over 1,200 linear feet from nearly 80 archival collections that prior to the start of the project were completely hidden from the public. Now fully integrated into the Center’s Online Public Access Catalog, these collections’ bibliographic records are each associated with a finding aid so that researchers across the world can view its content online.

 “The generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation, which has now awarded the Center over $1.5 million in archival grants, will enable the Center to establish the Shelby White & Leon Levy Archival Processing Laboratory as a dedicated space for this specialized work,” says Michael S. Glickman, COO, Center for Jewish History. “This new laboratory will ensure a lasting legacy of the Jewish people by providing continued access to our partners’ collections for future generations.”

Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, said, “Throughout his life, Leon had a profound interest in history. As a consequence, the foundation has focused on helping enable scholars and the general public to gain greater access to important historical material, such as the vast repository of Jewish culture housed at the Center.”

“Preserving the history of the Jewish people is what we’re all about,” adds Amy P. Goldman, Ph.D., chair of the Center’s Board Committee on Archive and Library Services. “Our partners’ collections are filled with rare and invaluable documents that would be lost forever were it not for archival rescue operations of this magnitude. We are truly fortunate and deeply grateful to donors like Shelby White who understand and support that mission.”

The combined collections of the Center’s research institutions – the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO) – constitute a repository of more than 500,000 volumes and over 100 million archival documents that together constitute the largest repository of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel. Alongside these research collections, the Yeshiva University Museum (YUM) holds nearly 20,000 museum objects, exhibiting a full spectrum of artistic, religious and cultural expression; and the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) is pioneering the documentation and study of the history and culture of Middle Eastern origins.

The partner collections range from the renaissance era in Europe to pre-colonial times in the Americas, to present-day materials from across the globe. The arrival of Jews from Recife, Brazil to the United States in 1654 spawned New York’s oldest synagogue, Congregation Shearith Israel, whose papers rest within the AJHS and ASF collections. YUM holds the original letter written by Thomas Jefferson to this Congregation, in denunciation of anti-Semitism. LBI houses a 16th Century renaissance book collection in which arguments defend the importance of Jewish ideas and texts in a Christian world.

The Center provides access to a comprehensive literary collection, including many first editions of the seminal works of such authors as Franz Kafka, Theodor Herzl, and Else Lasker-Schuler; as well as the personal collections of such figures as Moses Mendelssohn, Karl Marx, Heinrich Heine, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein. Researchers also have access to the first Hebrew books and Jewish prayer books published in the United States; and the personal papers of prominent public figures from 18th and 19th century America such as: Haym Salomon, financier of the American Revolution; Uriah P. Levy, the nation’s first Jewish Commodore and savior of Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello; Moses Michael Hays, founder of the Bank of Boston; Adolphus S. Solomons, co-founder with Clara Barton of the American Red Cross; and Emma Lazarus, poet laureate of America’s immigrants, whose collections include “The New Colossus,” the handwritten original of her 1883 poem that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

The Center for Jewish History is located at 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011. For information, call 212-294-8301 or visit www.cjh.org.

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About the Center for Jewish History: The Center for Jewish History (www.cjh.org) is the foremost Jewish research and cultural institution in New York City. Opened to the public in October 2000 as the campus of its five partner organizations – American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research – the Center has achieved recognition as a venue of unrivaled documentation and scholarship, imaginative exhibitions of art and artifacts, and vital public dialogue. The collections of its partners comprise the largest repository of the modern Jewish experience anywhere in the Diaspora. The Center’s mission is vital and unassailable – to preserve the primary documents of the Jewish people, foster research within the collections, and educate diverse constituencies through public program and exhibitions that draw on the vast resources housed here.

About Leon Levy Foundation: The Leon Levy Foundation (www.leonlevyfoundation.org), founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from the estate of Leon Levy, a legendary investor with a longstanding commitment to philanthropy. The Foundation’s overarching goal is to continue the tradition of humanism characteristic of Mr. Levy, by supporting scholarship at the highest level, ultimately advancing knowledge and improving the lives of individuals and society at large.

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