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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 13, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 25
NEH Challenge Grant to Enhance Library's Jewish Studies Collections

By Pamela Higgins
Sheridan Libraries

Johns Hopkins has been awarded a $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that will provide the Sheridan Libraries an endowment for collections and a librarian to support the university's Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Jewish Studies Program.

The Stulman Jewish Studies Program was established in 2002 to coordinate the many academic activities at Johns Hopkins dedicated to the study of Jewish history, literature, language, politics and religion. Drawing on faculty from nearly every department in the humanities and social sciences, the program gives students the opportunity to explore more than three millennia of Jewish culture, ranging from biblical to contemporary. The creation of this interdisciplinary program has brought with it a rapid expansion of research and teaching in Jewish studies, an expansion that has in turn placed new demands on the libraries' collections.

The libraries' holdings in biblical studies, Northwest Semitic philology, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and archaeological sites from antiquity have long been nationally significant, said Winston Tabb, dean of the university's libraries. With recent gifts and acquisitions, the library is creating new strength in modern European Jewish history, medieval Jewish-Christian relations, early modern Spain, Jewish art, Yiddish languages and literatures, and the Holocaust, he said. The integration of these gifts into the libraries' collections and the expansion of acquisitions in the various fields of Jewish studies will be the primary responsibility of the new librarian.

"The addition of a librarian with specific linguistic skills and field knowledge will be a critical asset to the library, enabling it to provide the Stulman Program's faculty and students world-class library resources," Tabb said. "The university will also benefit from a fundamental contribution to humanities scholarship, given the interdisciplinary nature of Jewish studies."

Increased expenditures will solidify collections in Eastern European Jewish history, the Jewish experience in North America, and Jewish literature in Hebrew and Yiddish. An enhanced acquisitions program also will support the purchase of related rare books, manuscripts, archives and other vital primary research materials.

According to David Nirenberg, director of the Stulman Program, the benefits of establishing a Jewish studies librarian and collections endowments at the Sheridan Libraries will extend far beyond Johns Hopkins.

"The creation of regionally and nationally prominent collections will also support the missions of Baltimore Hebrew University, the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and academic and research institutions throughout the world," he said. "And because the libraries' collections are also available to the public, they will be a rich resource for the Baltimore community."

The competition for the NEH Challenge grants is keen; only 11 of 48 requests were funded, and Johns Hopkins' proposal was the only grant that focused on building endowment resources for an academic research library.

Under the terms of the challenge, Johns Hopkins will receive $500,000 from the NEH if it can raise $2 million for the program from nonfederal sources by July 2009. The libraries and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences will join fund-raising efforts to meet the challenge.


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