Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Sacred Texts and Respectful Burial

 Sacred Texts and Respectful Burial



Sacred texts printed or manuscript such a Torah scrolls, prayer books, and other materials in Hebrew with the name of God in Hebrew that one can no longer use are still treated with respect. One may not burn or purposely destroy them. Many synagogues in the Near East had a storeroom called “genizah,” meaning hidden. The most famous genizah was the one from Old Cairo that Solomon Schechter brought to the scholarly world. For hundreds of years members of that synagogue dumped documents and holy books there. Schechter discovered the Hebrew original version of the book, Ben Sira there.

The Talmud in Shabbat 115a discusses what sacred books may be saved from a fire even on Shabbat. From that discussion we extrapolate what kinds of texts need to be respectfully buried. The Talmud page says that any text of Hebrew Bible even without God’s name written on it cannot be destroyed. This idea is connected to the prohibition against erasing God’s name. Books and documents with God’s name are called Shemot (literally “names”). Rambam (Maimonides) in his Mishneh Torah, Hilhot Yesodei HaTorah 6:8 rules that all holy books, should be retired to the genizah, even if God’s name is not on the pages.

Objects that have stories attached to them are hard to part with.  Some library items and siddurim have the names of donors on the book plate.  In your home collections things could have a story (a biography) of how they came into your possession.  The items could remind you of an occasion or the person gave you the item.  Without the story or context, the item is just a thing. Museums put context to objects so that a story is told.

The synagogue where I am the librarian has been working for more than three years on a genizah project. The last time they buried materials was nine years ago and none of the current staff remembered what they did.  . This project was a three-year logistical challenge. It was not a project with a project director or hard deadline. No one would care if the project was completed today or in a year. At first it was not even a project with someone in charge. Not that it took all of three years to do the tasks, but we had several challenges with defining the task and time frame, and then COVID closed the building for most of two years. In August 2021 we had a building-wide clean-up project. We had books that were left by former rabbis and many other donations that had unclear provenance. My part was to identify what should be done with the books.  Some books should be added to the library collections, some could be sold or given away, and some items needed to be buried. As a librarian I hate to throw out books in good condition because I always think someone will want them. This is hardest when the books are in good physical condition, but they have existed beyond their useful life. The non-holy books i.e., books without the name of God were recycled, donated or given away.

The building had more than 2000 old siddurim and mahzorim of several editions sitting in boxes on shelves in storage areas. Most of them were in good or excellent physical condition. The only reason to get rid of them was because the congregation started to use a new siddur. Some of the siddurim were two or three versions before the current versions. None of the above were sellable because no one wanted them, but a few were given away. I didn’t find any treasures from another time period like were found in the Cairo genizah.

Here are some pictures of materials that were buried. They ranged from ephemera such as pages copied from a humash (first five books of the Bible) to complete prayer books in excellent physical condition.

In honor of the congregation’s 150th anniversary I suggested offering members a historical package of siddurim dating from the Union Prayerbook from 1940 to the Gates of Prayer series from the 1980’s and 1990’s. We had no takers. I was able to give away some Hertz humashim to individuals and a synagogue.

Many staff members in the congregation helped with the gathering of the books and placing them in boxes. A few books came from members, but this was not a communal gathering of texts for burial. Staff who helped included the executive director, manager of facilities, maintenance staff, rabbis, educators, and others. I had to compute the number of cubic feet needed for the grave to communicate this to cemetery staff. The facilities manager needed to bring the pieces together and order a truck to transport the boxes.

The congregation owns its own cemetery, and the burial was scheduled for a time when the board was planning to meet at the cemetery. The rabbis were kept in the loop, and they were in charge of the ceremony. There is no traditional liturgy or ritual for the event.

 While many synagogues clean out the papers and documents that require burial on a periodic basis, I never heard of any Chicago area synagogue who planned such a massive burial that included so many boxes of old siddurim. There were 84 boxes occupying about 90 cubic feet that were buried. There was a cost for this project above and beyond normal salaries. The cemetery had to dig a grave and pay staff overtime wages to open and cover the grave. A truck needed to be rented and staff paid to load and unload the boxes.

 The burial pit has straight sides.  The boxes of books were placed carefully and respectfully in grave. The hole occupies the space of two graves.  The cemetery manager planned the opening so that if we have more books to bury in a year or two, a small part can be opened rather than a full grave.

Before you bury your own genizah books, examine them thoroughly. You probably won’t find scraps of business contracts from the 13th century, but you might learn some valuable historical lessons.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Davar Torah for Shabbat lunch Dec. 4, 2021


This is a version of the speech I gave at the Shabbat lunch on Dec. 4, 2021, the day before we got married.


Davar Torah for Shabbat lunch

This is the season we discuss miracles.  We discuss the miracles Hanukkah. During Hanukkah we add al hanisim to the shemonah esrei and birkhat hamazon, which talks about the miracles of the few against the many and the concept of the Jewish army overcoming the Greek culture.  This was war against foreign influence and a civil war. 

Remember the first person that Mattathias killed was a Jew (see Maccabees 2:23-27).  The King’s command was to force the Jews to forsake their forefathers.  They wanted Mattathias to set an example by offering a sacrifice in public, he refused.  A Jew went up and said that he would offer the sacrifice.  Mattathias killed him and the king’s men.

When the war was over, we have the story of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. These are the miracles of Hanukkah that became part of out history and cultural memory.

What do I mean by miracles?  Miracles do not break the laws of nature; miracles do not ignore the laws of physics.  Miracles defy random chance.  Time and place create opportunities.  It is a miracle when two people meet and the time is right for a relationship. It is a miracle when they can learn to love each other even though they live in two different cities. When God creates the opportunities and tools, people need to take chances to make their lives and the people around them better. To make a relationship work they need to give up a piece of themselves for a greater good.  The miracle of meeting and becoming a couple is a time to celebrate and the entire family and community are part of the miracle.  One needs friends, family and community.

The letters on the dreidel that tell us the miracle happened “there.”  נס גדול היה שם   are wrong.  The miracle is here and now.


נס גדול היה פה

נס גדול היה פה


But like he did so long ago, at Jericho,
God just made a wall fall down!


נס גדול היה פה  is also how the Hebrew version of the song from Fiddler on the Roof, Miracles of Miracles begins.  (Thanks to Jerry Bock, composer and lyricist, Sheldon Harnick)

[Song was sung for the people at the luncheon. There are two minor changes from the original.]


Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles- God took a Daniel once again,

Stood by his and side and- miracle of miracles-

Walked him through the lions’ den!


Wonder of wonders, נס גדול היה פה

I was afraid that God would frown, that was a miracle.

When God made the waters of the Red Sea part, that was a miracle too!

But of all God's miracles large and small,

The most miraculous one of all

Is that out of a worthless lump of clay,

God has made a man today.


Wonder of wonders, נס גדול היה פה-

God took a safran by the hand

Turned him around and- miracle of miracles- Led him to the promised land!


When David slew Goliath (yes!), that was a miracle.

When God gave us manna in the wilderness, that was a miracle too.


But of all God's miracles large and small,

The most miraculous one of all

Is the one I thought could never be:

God has given you to me. [1]


How do we know that God has been busy making couples? How do we know that God sets the time and place for couples to meet?  Here is a quote from Targum Jonathan


Targum Jonathan on Deuteronomy 32:4 [2]


אָמַר משֶׁה נְבִיָא כַּד סְלֵיקַת לְטַוְורָא דְסִינַי חָמִית רִבּוֹן כָּל עָלְמַיָא יְיָ מְרַבַּע יוֹמָא לְאַרְבָּעָא חוּלְקִין תְּלַת שָׁעִין עָסִיק בְּאוֹרַיְיתָא וּתְלַת עָסִיק בְּדִינָא וּתְלַת מְכַרְזֵג בֵּין גְבַר לְאִיתָא וּגְזַר לִמְרוֹמָם וּמָאִיךְ וּתְלַת מְפַרְנֵס כָּל בִּרְיָיתָא דְהָכִין כְּתִיב תַּקִיף דְשַׁלְמִין עוֹבָדוֹי אֲרוּם כָּל אָרְחָתוֹי דִינָא אֱלָהָא מְהֵימְנָא דְמִן קֳדָמוֹי עַוְלָא לָא נָפִיק דְזַכַּאי וְקָשִׁיט הוּא


Moses, the prophet said: When I ascended the Mount Sinai, I saw the Lord of all the world divide the day into four parts: three hours occupied with Torah, three hours occupied with judgment, three hours providing for all the world, and three hours matching between men and women...


From the Talmud


Sotah 2a:8-9

א"ר שמואל בר רב יצחק כי הוא פתח ריש לקיש בסוטה אמר הכי אין מזווגין לו לאדם אשה אלא לפי מעשיו שנא' (תהלים קכה, ג) כי לא ינוח שבט הרשע על גורל הצדיקים אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר ר' יוחנן וקשין לזווגן כקריעת ים סוף, שנאמר (תהלים סח, ז) אלהים מושיב יחידים ביתה מוציא אסירים בכושרות איני והא אמר רב יהודה אמר רב ארבעים יום קודם יצירת הולד בת קול יוצאת ואומרת בת פלוני לפלוני בית פלוני לפלוני שדה פלוני לפלוני לא קשיא הא בזוג ראשון הא בזוג שני

Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzḥak says...Heaven matches a woman to a man only according to his actions, as it is stated: “For the rod of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous” (Psalms 125:3). Rabba bar Bar Ḥana says that Rabbi Yoḥanan says: And it is as difficult to match a couple together as was the splitting of the Red Sea...

Is that so that partners are matched according to one's actions? But Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: Forty days before an embryo is formed a Divine Voice issue forth and says: The daughter of so-and-so is destined to marry so-and-so; such and such a house is destined to be inhabited by so-and-so; such and such a field is destined to be farmed by so-and-so.

This distinction of views is not difficult. This statement that Rav Yehuda says in the name of Rav is with regard to a first match [zivug], while this statement of Rabba bar bar Ḥana in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan is with regard to a second match.

The following is adapted from an article about the lessons of marriage from the life of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A young businessman, Yoel was suggested to Yehudit, an educator, as a suitable marriage partner. They met a few times and Yehudit was unsure as to if they were soul mates. Yehudit arranged for a meeting with the Rebbe.  He asked her, “Do you like this man?”  This was an ordinary question in attempt to encourage Yehudit to talk about her feelings toward Yoel. Yehudit answered that she had the same basic love as one is supposed to have for a fellow Jew. The Rebbe replied that one must have much more than a basic love before making a lifelong relationship. Yehudit ended the relationship.

The definition of love does not come from romantic movie or novel.  Love is not the overwhelming, blinding emotion we find in the world of fiction. Real love is an emotion that intensifies throughout life. Small, everyday acts make love flourish or could ruin the relationship. Love is built on the sharing, caring, and respecting one another. Love is the actions that building a life together, a family and a home. As two lives unite to form one, over time, there is a point where each partner feels they are a part of the other, where each partner can no longer visualize life without the other.

Sharing means being part of each other’s life including the physical, emotional, and logistical.  Sharing with one’s spouse goes beyond time and resources; it means sharing an identity and destiny. Sharing mean sometimes you must do things that are difficult (such as cleaning up a mess) and sometimes the sharing increases the pleasure beyond what one can do alone.

Caring is a respect for the wellbeing of your partner.  Even when not together in the same room the couple is thinking about the other. Respect that even though you are couple, you are also two individuals. The husband and wife should go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the other should never experience anxiety or worry over their welfare.

Powerful tools are only as good as the people who use them.  Since the invention of language, we have a systematic way to communicate.  Carol and I have been using electronic tools for our communication through most of time we have known each other.  Now we enter a new phase.  Everyone who knows us has given us a special bracha that we shall live together as one in peace and harmony.  There are three pieces that come together in a marriage you, me and ha-kodesh baruchu.  Three pieces that insure we will have a place to sit, a place to stand, and a part in the community.


נס גדול היה פה

All of you are part of the ongoing miracle.  May we grow in wisdom.

Thank you for joining us and may we celebrate peace, understanding, and simahot together


[1] source:


[2] Copied from

Friday, April 16, 2021

Heroes of Learning part two Nov. 2000

Librarian's Lobby
November 2000

 Heroes of Learning part two

Last month after I finished writing my column, I learned that a Chicago Rabbinical Council member, Shmuel Jablon, just had his first book published. My criteria for heroes of learning state that the person should have an influence far beyond their original time and place. Rabbi Shmuel Jablon is a future hero. Through his writings and teaching his influence is reaching a large audience. Professor George Foot Moore made significant contributions to Jewish scholarship and helped non-Jews better understand the Tannaic age of Judaism. The last example, Aaron Copland, was not an academic hero, but a musician, composer, teacher of music and conductor. Aaron Copland, who was one of the definers of American symphonic music, donated his papers to the Library of Congress. Now we can learn more about this musical genius through a digital on-line collection.

Rabbi Shmuel Jablon[1]

I first met Shmuel when he was a simicha (rabbinical) student at Hebrew Theological College and taught American history in their high school. He impressed me as a teacher who cared not only for academics, but also for the relationships between students and history. When he said, "Remember you are B'nai Torah,"[2] he was talking about their behavior and how the outside world perceived them. Several of his former students remembered that his method of teaching demanded original thinking. He prepared them for learning at a college level. One assignment was a constitutional convention with students taking the roles of each of the thirteen states. The assignment taught the students about history and the human interaction required to make agreements. Another assignment was a term paper on an aspect of American history. Usually students of this age have a hard time figuring out the scope of a research paper. Shmuel was able to guide the student to do some original historical research. Several of the students wrote about family members and their contributions to the Jewish community. These papers shed light on the institutions' history that was not in any history books. These students later donated copies of their papers to the library.

After receiving his simicha (rabbinical ordination) he became the director of the Sephardic Hebrew Day School (Skokie, IL). Later he was recruited to be the associate headmaster of South Peninsula Hebrew Day School (Sunnyvale, CA) and in September 2000 he became is the head of the lower school (grades k-6) of the Fuchs Mizrachi School (Cleveland, OH).

From 2008 until 2014 he was the principal of Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia.  In 2008 he published The Student's Pesach Haggadah[3] aimed at students grade 3-12.  In Cleveland and Philadelphia, he contributed comments on the Torah portion for the local Jewish newspapers. 

In all of his positions he guided school curricula that were strong in Hebrew language and a connection to Israel.  He and his family made Aliyah in 2014 because of his love of the land, desire to be at the center of Jewish history and to give his children the opportunity to be in the place they'd always dreamed of living.  He hopes that his aliyah served as an example for his students and their families in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Currently Shmuel lives in Efrat, Israel with his wife and unmarried children. He celebrated the birth of his first Israel grandchild 10 months ago. Since 2015 has been serving as the executive director of Shapell’s/Darche Noam in Jerusalem. 

As the executive director he brings his expertise in organization and education to make sure the institution runs well and remains financially sound. Shapell’s and its women's seminary Midreshet Rachel V'Chaya have English-speaking men and women students [4] coming from North America and the rest of the world who study from a month to three years, emerging with a greater understanding of Torah, Israel and Jewish texts.  They then go on to make an impact in their communities- whether those they came from or in Israel (where 25%+ of the alumni live).  Though his classroom teaching has been placed in the background (though he teaches the Megillot and Israeli history at Midreshet Rachel), he is quite proud of his role in making sure that the organization remains strong and able to continue to succeed in its mission.

His classroom teaching has been placed I the background so that he can help the faculty do their job working with students to master text and inspire spiritual and religious growth. Shapell’s has English-speaking men and women students[4] coming from North America and the rest of the world who study for a year and then return to home with a greater understanding of Torah, Israel and Jewish texts. Shmuel’s influence on faculty and the organization help students return home and make contributions to their home communities.

His book, Jewish Answers, was published in 2000 by iUniverse and Writers' Club Press (ISBN: 0-595-12231-0). The book is a compilation of answers he has given as one of the rabbis on "Ask a Rabbi" panel on The questions range from everyday issues to holidays and religious Zionism. Some questions require a halakhic (according to Jewish law) response while others require the compassion and understanding of a teacher or social worker. (Shmuel refers difficult legal questions to others who are more qualified to answer.) His answers demonstrate an unusual ability to understand the motivation of the questioner and give a sensitive, compassionate, modern Orthodox answer. You may read sample pages on the Internet before deciding to purchase. The book is aimed at two audiences, the person seeking to learn more about Judaism and experts such as rabbis, who may want help when they receive similar questions.

George Foot Moore (1851-1931)

From 1902 until his retirement in 1928 George Foot Moore was a professor of religion at Harvard University. Moore, the son a Presbyterian minister in West Chester, PA, was so bright that he entered Yale University as a junior and graduated second in his class. After studying privately, he entered Union Theological Seminary in New York and graduated in 1878. He was a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Andover Theological Seminary [5] for twenty years before Harvard. He contributed to scholarly journals and wrote several important books including, Commentary on Judges (1895), The Literature of the Old Testament (1913), and The Birth and Growth of Religion (1923). He did much to shape the idea that religion is a universal human activity. He shaped the study of religion with German logic, methods, and standards and mixed in his own enormous base of knowledge. He had the traits of a great soul and a great scholar.

His influence on Jewish studies was his three volume work, Judaism in the First Centuries: the age of Tannaim. (1927-1930). His understanding of the Talmud, rabbinic literature, and rabbinic Judaism was combined with his understanding of religion and the history of religion. This work was his contribution Jewish studies. In an era when few universities had experts in Jewish studies, Moore stands out as a leader and example for younger scholars. [6] Moore thanks his colleagues, Harry A. Wolfson for checking all the references and Louis Ginzberg for his words of advice and encouragement.

There is a generational gap in the appreciation of Moore's scholarship. I asked several CRC members about George Foot Moore. The ones who are my age or older, readily recognized his name and his Judaism. Younger members had never seen this book. Moore's books were written in an era that saw few English scholarly works in Judaism written in English. Before World War II, scholarly Jewish books were written in Hebrew or German. Moore's work cannot be recommended without caution. Moore looks at Judaism as a critical historian and Christian theologian. His work did much to bridge the gap between Christian theologians and Jewish scholarship. He does not hesitate to quote from the Christian Bible and Christian teachers. No doubt modern scholars using sources revealed after 1930 could disagree with some of his conclusions, but his contributions influenced students and scholars for more than 50 years.

The idea that religion is a natural human activity should help understand not just organized religions, but also corporate and personal behaviors that border on religion. Consequently, George Foot Moore's influence has transcended his time and place and as a hero of learning. For a portrait of Moore and more information see:

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

Copeland in Israel 1968
When I performed Copland's works in high school band, I had no idea that he was Jewish. Copland devoted his life to composing "American" music. Copland was born in Brooklyn to Russian-Jewish immigrants. From the time he was 10 he wanted to be a composer. This was difficult as an American during a time when composing symphonic music was a European activity.

November 14, 2000, marked the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Aaron Copland. The new online Aaron Copland Collection ( was created by the National Digital Library Program in conjunction with the Library on Congress's Music Division. It forms part of the Library of Congress's homage to this distinguished American. This digital collection has digital copies of Copland's manuscript scores with the composers handwritten notes.

Copland wrote several books [7] to help us understand and enjoy music. He stopped composing in the 1970's, but continued to conduct and teach until the mid 1980's. Because his ballet, music, Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo (1942), and his simple Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) still ring in my ears, he is one of the heroes of learning.

©2000, 2021 CRC36. Last revised April 15, 2021

[1]  This section was edited and updated in April 2000 and is substantially different than the original Nov. 2000 article. Rabbi Jablon is a hero of Jewish learning today and not just a “future” hero whom I met in 1995.

 The other sections had only minor changes.

 [2]  Loosely translated, B'nai Torah means properly behaved gentlemen.

 [3]  The Student's Pesach Haggadah by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon. Mazo Publishers, 2008

ISBN: 978-9657344453.

 [4]  Men and women are in separate programs and don’t learn in the same classes.

[5]  For the first centuries of their existence Andover and Harvard Divinity School (HDS) had a rivalry. In 1910 after a decline in enrollment Andover and Harvard signed a joint operating agreement. Andover spent $300,000 to build Andover Hall, which became the joint library of HDS and Andover. The library's name is Andover-Harvard. HDS is a non-denominational divinity school that offers academic graduate degrees in religion.

 [6]  Moore did graduate studies in Germany in 1895 and was an exchange professor in 1909-10 and evidently learned German. He did publish a few articles in German. However, it is interesting to note that his magnum opus, Judaism has not been translated into German or Hebrew. During the 1920's even American scholars in religion and social sciences published in German.

[7] Books include: What to listen for in music (1939), Our new music (1941), and Copland on music (1960). What to listen ... was frequently used as a text in music appreciation classes.  

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Heroes of Learning


Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman
October 2000


In the September 2000 column I talked about knowledge and a definition of learning. This month I want to share some personal thoughts on heroes of Jewish learning.

Heroes of Learning

Rabbis of the Talmud -- Collectively the rabbis and the teachers recorded in the Talmud bridged the gap between the written Torah and everyday life. They mastered both the physical sciences and the social sciences of their day. They understood that law was more than a written commandment. Understanding the law involved an understanding of the physical world and the social, political and economic conditions of the people. The Talmud contains more than one opinion on many topics. Sometimes we choose one opinion as better; sometimes both or all three answers are right. Because of the scope of Talmudic knowledge, we learn that no one has a monopoly on truth, justice, or understanding of the neshama (soul).

Saadia ben Yosef Gaon (882-942) was born in Egypt and served as the leader of the Babylonian Jewish community. In His time Babylonia was the most important Jewish community in the world. In 921 Saadia disputed Aaron Ben-Meir was to the starting day for Pesah. Ben-Meir, head of the Jerusalem academy, said Pesah would start on Tuesday that year. Saadia and his followers said, Thursday, and his dismissed the halakhic arguments of Ben-Meir. Saadia eventually won as he  established both his interpretation of the calendar and the importance of the Babylonian academies. Saadia translated the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) into Arabic, both for the Arabic speaking Jews and the Arabs. He used Arabic characters for the Bible though most of his Arabic works and the works of other scholars of his time were in Arabic with Hebrew characters. His polemics against the Karaites further enhanced Rabbinic Jewry. No fewer than 49 works were written by Karaites against Saadia. In his Emunot ve-De'ot Saadia writes the first comprehensive work on the fundamental problems in Jewish philosophy. This work deeply influenced all later Jewish philosophers.

The editing of the Siddur is his most important influence on our lives because it affects us every single time we pray. His Siddur was not the first and he did not author the prayers. He codified the customs of his time, used his judgment in selecting between various texts and explained what he did. He comments on and explains both the prayers and the selection process. His Siddur had only one preserved manuscript and was published in 1941. In the preparation of the Siddur for publication the editor consulted fragments found in the Cairo Genizah. In my study of prayer, I have frequently consulted this work.(1) Saadia's work and influence are of monumental importance in establishing the Jewish people as "People of the book"

Solomon Schechter (probably in December 1850-1915) was born in Focsani, Romania. He received his early education from his father, a Habad Hasid from Russia, who was a shohet. Schechter was named in Hebrew Shneur Zalman after the Lubavitcher rebbe. The unusually

gifted boy learned to read Hebrew by age three and by five mastered Humash. He went to a yeshiva in Piatra at age ten and at age thirteen studied with one the greatest Talmudic authorities, Rabbi Joseph Saul Nathanson of Lemberg. He acquired his life-long devotion to the scientific study of Judaism and its sources while learning at the University of Berlin and the Hochschuler für des Wissenschaft des Judenthums. In 1879 he went to England and eventually became professor of Hebrew at University College, London. In 1887 he published an edition of Abot de-Rabbi Nathan, an important Talmudic book, included in most Talmud editions, but its text had suffered from non-learned copyists. Schechter read through many manuscripts and compared the texts with Greek translations and quotations found in other books. This volume put Schechter in the front ranks of Jewish scholars.

His fame was established when he made possible the scholarly study of the manuscripts in the Cairo Genizah. This discovery started a series of events in Jewish learning that continue until this day. Among them is the rediscovery of the Hebrew texts of books previously known only in translation. For example, the Hebrew original of Ben Sira was published in 1899. His Saadyana changed our understanding of Saadia ben Joseph and his period of history.

Dr. Schechter's contributions to positive-historical Judaism led directly to the study of Judaism at the university level. The founding of Yeshiva University more than ten years after Dr. Schechter's death and the departments of Judaica on college campuses are directly related to Schechter's learning, belief in the universality of the message of Judaism (an early Lubavitch missionary?), leadership and personal charisma.(2)

Alexander Dushkin (1890-1976) was born in Suwalki, Poland and came to the United States in 1901. In 1910 he was part of a program of the New York Kehillah to provide planning and

direction to the great chaos to the growing mass of New York Jewry. He started a training program at Teacher's College in New York City that led to his earning the first American Ph.D. on a Jewish education theme. This thesis was published as, Jewish education in New York City, New York, Bureau of Jewish Education, 1918. One idea he advocated was for bright children to be sent to Jewish day schools and trained for Jewish leadership.

Dushkin's most important idea was the Jewish summer camp. This was a new venture in Jewish education. He was associated with Camp Modin from 1921 to 1942. Albert Schoolman had already started Cejwin Camps as community summer camps for children of the Jewish "masses." Upper-middle class Jewish parents were sending their children to private summer camps as a "proper" vacation for their children. The first summer, 1922, had 45 boys. The second year had 110 boys and ten girls. Some of the early campers went on to start camps of their own. All the current Zionist and Jewish educational camps can find their roots in the work that Dushkin did at Camp Modin.

Space limits what I can say about his time serving the Board of Jewish Education of Chicago, the Jewish Education Committee of New York and the Hebrew University. He was important as a leader and philosopher. One of his major goals was to make sure that Jewish education is a communal responsibility. He believed in pluralism and stressed the need to find common goals and values. While I was a student in Jerusalem, I heard him speak once in 1970 and he immediately became one of my heroes of learning.(3)


1. For more on Saadia ben Joseph see: Essays in Jewish Biography, by Alexander Marx. Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1947; Encyclopedia Judaica "Saadia Gaon" vol. 14, col. 543-555; and Saadia Gaon, his life and works / by Henry Malter. Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1921.

2. For more information see: Giants of faith: great American rabbis / by Alex J. Goldman. New York, Citadel Press, 1964; Essays in Jewish Biography, by Alexander Marx. Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1947; Solomon Schechter / by Norman Bentwich. Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1938.

3. For more information see: Living bridges: memoirs of an educator, by Alexander Dushkin, Jerusalem, Keter Publishing House, 1975.

©2004  by  Daniel D. Stuhlman. All rights reserved.
Last revised April 8, 2021    CRC35

Sunday, February 14, 2021


Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman 
September 2000

This is my first column as an independent consultant. My company will be involved in the management of knowledge. I will have two foci-- advising organization on how to better turn information into knowledge and the cataloging of Judaica library materials. I wish every a Shana Tova u-Metukah (happy and sweet New Year) may this year be one that share something that you learned.

This is an expanded version of my monthly column. Usually the difference between the print version that is published for the Chicago Rabbinical Council and the web version is minor. Changes are usually based on the needs of a different audience. The version contains more material because I ran out of space in the print version.

Center for Jewish History

I was in New York over the Labor Day weekend preparing for my new venture. I visited the new Center for Jewish History on West 17th Street in Manhattan. The building actually has entrances

on both 16th and 17th Streets. This new building is just opening to the public this month. The Center is joint effort of YIVO, the Leo Baeck Institute, the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardic Federation and the Yeshiva University Museum. These organizations have performed a great service for students and scholars of Judaica by pulling their resources to form one organization.. The logistical problems to move the library collections were daunting. The American Jewish Historical Society was previously housed on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. The other institutions were in New York City.

Like many new buildings, they are still trying to solve climate control and other technical problems. These institutions have different roots and missions, but they share a mission to save and preserve the past in order to educate future generations. To find out more visit their joint web site : www.centerfor This site has links to each of the constituent organizations. One of their joint missions is to act as a resource for the study of Jewish genealogy. They will shortly have a computer system in operation to help researchers find the information in any of the constituent libraries. The libraries share a reading room.

While all four institutions want to help preserve the Jewish past they complement each other rather than overlap. YIVO seeks to collect materials in Yiddish and about Jews from Yiddish speaking countries; the Leo Baeck Institute collects materials concerning central European and German speaking Jewry; and the American Jewish Historical Society collects materials about the United States. For current materials published in the United States all three libraries may want to purchase them; but for ephemera, manuscripts, and archival materials they would logically go to one institution based on their collection development policy.

YIVO (Yidisher Visenshaftlikher Institut) = Institute for Jewish Research

Since I will be working with YIVO I would like to share a little about the organization's history. (A fuller story can be found in the Encyclopedia Judaica v. 16.) YIVO was founded at a conference that took place in Berlin, August 7-12, 1925. Vilna was selected as its center and YIVO reached its peak in 1935 when they held a conference attended by leading scholars from the world's Yiddish speaking communities. By 1940 when the Nazis occupied Vilna, YIVO's library had amassed over 100,000 volumes and over 100,000 manuscripts and archival items. About 50% of these items survived the Holocaust and were sent with the help of the U.S. Army and State Department to the New York headquarters. YIVO's Library is dedicated to collection, preservation, and study of Eastern European Jewish culture and the places to where Eastern European Jewry immigrated. Today, the collection contains over 300,000 printed volumes and over 500,000 non-book items and includes religious and secular materials that mirror Jewish life in those countries.

The Vilna Collection is part of the core collection of the YIVO Library. The Vilna collection includes over 20,000 books from the Mattityahu Strashun Library. (The other surviving Strashun Library books are now part of the Jewish National Library at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.) This collection of rabbinica (mostly in Hebrew) that belonged to the Strashun Library was cataloged on cards during the 1960's by the late Rabbi Hayim Lieberman.

Mattityahu Strashun, 1819-1885, was a talmudic scholar born in Vilna. His family was well-to-do and he married the eldest daughter of the wealthy. Joseph Elijah Eliasberg. He had an extensive knowledge of philosophy, history and astronomy in addition to his Jewish scholarship. He was a Jewish communal leader and was appointed to the Vilna city council. The oldest books in the collection date to the early 16th century. Since he died childless, he willed his collection of 5,700 books, many with his marginal annotations, to the Jewish community of Vilna. In addition, he left money for a building and maintaining

the collection. The first director of the library was Samuel Strashun, his nephew. The collection was kept current. In 1928 the library started collecting every book published in Poland in Hebrew or Yiddish. By 1939 the library contained over 35,000 volumes and included 150 manuscripts and five incunabula.

I first visited YIVO when I was library school student in the early 1970's. The institution was on prestigious, 5th Avenue. The building looked more like a mansion than a place of learning. I learned about Judaica librarianship from their librarians in a joint course between Columbia University and YIVO1 When I learned there the institution already had a long history of Yiddish scholarship. Their periodicals are important sources of Jewish scholarship. Their librarians have a long history of contributing to the field. The late Dina Abramowitcz when she was the director of the library, edited the list of Yiddish books for the Jewish Books Annual.

Cataloging Knowledge

There is a source in Torah that gives us a clue to the need to catalog and organize knowledge. In Parshat Bereshit (the book of Genesis) we read of the story of creation. After God created the universe, he separated the light from the darkness and separated the waters and formed dry land. This is the first act of organizing the world. Organization of data what cataloging is all about.

Learning is a process that is usually defined as change in behavior based on experience. Knowledge is the something that has been learned from experience or another person. When the knowledge is integrated into the person we say that learning has occurred. Knowledge can be gained from input to any of our senses. This knowledge is based on information. Information is interpreted from data and data are formed from symbols such as letters and numbers. In organizations, one person's data becomes another's information and one person's information becomes another's knowledge. Knowledge is the result of integrating information. Each step of the process adds value to a previous step. The human mind attaches meaning to the unfamiliar. When confronted with symbols such as letters, numbers, the mind tries to interpret them and make words. If the word is familiar the mind attaches some linguistic meaning to the symbols. Based on the knowledge in the person's head words form and soon the symbols are new information for the person. The difficulty about writing about this process is that while we observe people working, it is difficult to determine the dividing line between information and knowledge. Every input that one of our senses detects is referenced to our experience that is previous knowledge. For example, the word triangle names a geometric form that has a definition. However, the word triangle creates a mental image that is unique for each person.

I would like to choose a library model to demonstrate how knowledge is saved, cataloged and distributed. I define books as the frozen knowledge of the author(s). Books are based on the information, data and experience of the author. The act of writing and publishing is a "freezing" of this knowledge because in the real world people are always learning and changing their internal knowledge. A book enters a collection as information. The cataloger takes the data from the title page and enters it based on rules into a catalog system. Once in the system the book is represented by symbols. The book is then labeled and placed on the shelf at the "address" that the cataloger assigned. If a reader wants to find that book (s)he looks in the catalog, following the rules for searching, locates the address of the book and then is able to get the book. Once the book is read, the frozen knowledge of the author can become part of the live knowledge of the reader.

Cataloging is both a science and an art. A process based on rules and practices is a science. A process applying those rules to the needs of a particular library is an art. Two catalogers may both follow the rules and create different catalog records that are both correct. A "cataloger" not following the rules may create a situation that makes if difficult for readers to find books in the future. Cataloging is a process to communicate with library users at a future moment. The reader who understands the rules can find books more easily then those who don't understand how to use the system. Catalogers are source for information; reference librarians are the interpreters and guides to information and the end reader becomes the one who internalizes knowledge. At any moment the librarian can be a gatherer of data, a distributor of information, and a source of knowledge.

The difference between chaos and the world is the act of creation that put order into the universe. The difference between a collection of books and a library is the organization and cataloging. The skill of the cataloger is understanding the world of books and knowledge and the ability to organize and describe them based on rules to enable readers to find them. This adds value to the books and makes the collection more valuable.

In future columns I will continue this discussion on knowledge with more examples. Please do not hesitate to contact me to give ideas and suggestions for future columns.



1. Columbia University and YIVO have many co-operative efforts in the area of Yiddish studies.

©2001 Last revised March 23, 2001, Feb. 14, 2021

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Remembering the past few years


Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman 
August 2000

Remembering the past few years

I would like to publicly thank Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld and wish him hatzlacha in his new position. Working with him at Kehilath Jacob Beth Samuel and the Chicago Rabbinical Council has been a wonderful experience. We have learned from each other and hope that the projects and ideas that we shared have made KJBS, the CRC and the larger community a better place. 
This is my last column as the Librarian of the Saul Silber Library. The column will continue next month with a new focus. I will be working with the new Executive Director and with my loyal readers to write about the world of books, learning and knowledge. I would appreciate any ideas and suggestions for topics for my columns.

In the last issue of (Chicago Rabbinical Council) Hadashot several staff members reviewed the accomplishments of the CRC. One of the accomplishments of this column has been to guide readers to new ideas about books and knowledge. The column I wrote on the story of the two brothers who met on what became the site of the 1st and 2nd Temple has been quoted and referred to by librarians ever since. In my columns I have tried to show a process of finding information and turning that information into useful knowledge. Later in this column I will tell you how this process will be part of my new venture.

I would like to review some of the Library's accomplishments that allow library readers to help themselves.

1. We put up signs to help readers. It is amazing how a sign can help readers find what they want more effectively. The Library has signs on each tier of book shelves. The stacks have signs and posters to guide the readers to the place to find their books. Each book tier and area of the reading room has an identification number to ease locating of materials. These location codes are posted and in the library guidebooks.

2. The Library's computer catalog now has over 23,500 items from all branches of the Library. Every item added to the collection since 1995 is in the computer catalog. The catalog is also available on the World Wide Web at : This is a temporary URL and will be changed when the vendor upgrades their software in October. While the cataloging is far from complete, it is a vast improvement over the card catalog. Since the Library never had an inventory, the card catalog has items that have been missing for over 40 years. Every item in the computer catalog that has been recataloged has been processed and relabeled. I have been complimented that our spine labels are much easier to read and they make finding a book much easier than most of the big university libraries in the area.

Cataloging is a never-ending project. The idea and mission of cataloging is to organize and record the information about a library item so that it can be found and used. The catalog contains not only books, but also videos, CDs, articles, analytics, "see" references, museum objects and even the Library's equipment. Some books are easy to catalog because they have clear information on the title pages and cataloging in publication. Some books are difficult because they are missing vital information such as author, date of publication, and publisher. Serials are a special challenge because they are published periodically and have multiple authors. Publishers that change the name of their publications make cataloging difficult and make readers struggle to find the issues they need.

3. The Library branch in the Blitstein Teachers Institute has blossomed from a small collection of text books into two attractive rooms with new book shelves holding over 3000 volumes. The collection contains books in areas that support the curriculum. In addition to Judaica volumes that largely duplicates what is in the main collection, the library has literature, psychology, business, education, and computer science books that are not duplicated in the main library. All items are cataloged in the library management system.

4. The Library has received major gifts from CRC members over the past five years. Their names have been mentioned in my columns. The Library has been able to fill in major gaps in our collections thanks to these gifts. However, gifts are a mixed blessing. Chances are that two CRC rabbis have similar interests and collect many of the same books. The Library keeps what we need and then passes the others to appropriate places. The CRC office itself has many of the duplicate gifts. These gifts are an important source of out-of-print books that the Library could never purchase at a book store.

Adding value to data and information to make knowledge

Libraries are store houses of knowledge. Books are the frozen knowledge of their authors. Understanding the terminology of "data", "information" and, "knowledge" is important to understanding how each one of you adds value to information. Data is easily stored and retrieved in a computer data base. The pieces of data are assembled to become information. Information is integrated in the brain then changes it into knowledge. Knowledge is learned by humans based on information. Once learned knowledge changes behavior.

The above paragraph may sound unclear, but let me describe knowledge in terms that are very familiar. Rabbis make sermons. Think of the value rabbis add to data to make sermons that share knowledge. For example, a rabbi will start with an idea from the sidra (or any other source). This idea is one of the datum. The rabbi will look for sources in the Torah and later rabbinic and Jewish literature to support the idea. These sources (data) are gathered and then become information. The information is integrated into the rabbi's experience, background and previous knowledge to help synthesize new ideas. These new ideas are integrated to make the knowledge that will be shared in the sermon. The knowledge is received by the congregation and if it effects a change in behavior, it is part of the person's knowledge. Each step adds value to the previous step. The initial idea needs the added value of the sources; the sources need the value integrating them into new thought worth sharing and finally the congregation benefits from the integration, synthesis and integration into knowledge.

This adding value is not limited to sermons. The project could be anything that requires gathering data and adding value before passing it on to another person. My new venture will be helping organizations and businesses understand the process of adding value to information and turning that information into knowledge. This process is called knowledge management and it is what I have been doing for over 30 years and never knew it before four weeks ago. Cataloging is the most important aspect of the organization, storage and retrieval of knowledge. Knowledge is the most valuable human endeavor that can be shared but never touched, felt, or seen. Librarians are experts in adding value to data through their dedication to organizing, storing, and retrieving data and information. In future columns, I will continue discussing adding value to data.

©2001 by Daniel D. Stuhlman.  Last revised April 8, 2021  CRC33