The Gelman Library has diverse and wide-ranging holdings in the field of Hebrew and Judaic studies, including modern Judaica, rare books, and archival materials. Foremost among these is the I. Edward Kiev Collection, the leading university collection of pre-modern Hebraica and Judaica, and of Hebrew and Jewish bibliographic literature, in the Washington Research Library Consortium.
The I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection
The I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection was established in 1996 by Dr. Ari and Phyllis Kiev with the donation of the private library of Dr. Kiev’s father, Rabbi I. Edward Kiev (1905-1975), one of the preeminent Judaica librarians of the 20th century. In 1998, the Kiev Room was dedicated to house the collection – along with supplementary collections of Jewish graphic art, archives, printed and recorded music, ephemera, artifacts and ritual objects - and to provide a reading room for researchers. The continued growth of the Kiev Collection is supported by the Kiev Foundation and outside donations.
At the time of his death, Edward Kiev’s library consisted of nearly 18,000 volumes in various areas of Judaic Studies, from rabbinics and biblical archaeology to Jewish history and modern Hebrew literature. The Kiev Collection now holds more than 28,000 volumes, composed largely of English, Hebrew and German works published between the 18th and the 20th centuries. There is also a selection of early Judaica, including a hand-illuminated incunable edition of Josephus, De antiquitate Judaica (Venice, 1486) and A. Margarita’s Der gantz jüdisch Glaub (Augsburg, 1530), together with various works of early Christian Hebraism. The entire range of modern German-Jewish scholarship is represented, from the Wissenschaft des Judentums in the 19th century to émigré publications from the Nazi period.
The collection’s Hebraica include books printed over the course of five centuries and around the world, especially Eastern Europe. There are books from some 250 towns in 30 countries, among them works issued by Soncino and Bomberg in Italy in the early 16th century.
Aside from works in Hebrew, there is much Yiddish literature, together with selected texts in other Jewish languages, including Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, Judezmo (Ladino/Judeo-Spanish), Judeo-Tat and Karaite Tatar.
Judaic Bibliography and Reference
The Kiev Collection is especially rich in Hebrew and Judaic bibliographies and reference literature, a field in which Edward Kiev was a recognized authority. This literature, some of it very rare, includes many auction catalogues and bibliographic pamphlets.
Over 900 titles of serials and periodicals in Hebrew, Yiddish, English and German are held in the Kiev Collection, many in lengthy runs and others in shorter runs or only a few issues. These include major scholarly journals as well as out of the way publications, some very rare.
Graphic Arts and Pamphlets
The Kiev Room holds additional collections donated by the Kiev family, including the Kiev Foundation Graphic Arts Collection, containing printed ephemera, lithographs, engravings, cartoons, and other exempla of Jewish art as well as a wide range of anti-Semitica. The Kiev Foundation Pamphlet Collection holds booklets, pamphlets, offprints, auction catalogues and brochures, some extremely rare or unrecorded. These collections complement the many hundreds of items in all of these categories preserved in the I. Edward Kiev Papers.
Manuscripts and Archives
The manuscript collections include the personal papers of I. Edward Kiev, as well as correspondence from distinguished figures in the Reform movement of American Judaism. Among the primary sources are diaries and correspondence from Stephen S. Wise (1874-1949), an international Jewish leader and champion of the Zionist cause. Wise co-founded, among other major organizations, the World Zionist Congress, and he established the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, later merged with Hebrew Union College. There are also letters from the father of American Reform Judaism and founder of Hebrew Union College, Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900), to the Hungarian-born American Reform rabbi Adolph Hubsch (1830-1884).
Also held in the Kiev Room is the small collection of David Simon Blondheim Papers, related to the Eleanor Dulles archive in the Special Collections Research Center. (The Ari Kiev Papers, donated by Dr. Ari and Phyllis Kiev in 2008, are held in the Special Collections Research Center.)
The Library’s online WRLC Catalog is the primary tool for locating materials in the Kiev Judaica Collection. To access the WRLC Catalog from the library home page, click the "Research" tab, then select the link under "Find" that says "Classic Catalog", click on "Advanced Search", click the “More Limits” button on the right side of the page, choose “GW: GELMAN Kiev Judaica Collection” as the location field, and click on "Set Limits".
Exhibitions of the Kiev Collection
A series of exhibitions drawing on the wide-ranging holdings of the Kiev Collection have been mounted over the years, some of them now available online.
"Artistic Expressions of the Jewish Renaissance" (2005) provides a glimpse of some of the artistic treasures in the Kiev Collection, including graphic art by Galician-born E. M. Lilien (1874-1925) and German-born Hermann Struck (1876-1944). Exploring the scholarship, art and literature of this era, the exhibit displays aspects of Jewish participation in Art Nouveau, outstanding examples of early Zionist iconography, and the awakening cultural collaboration between Jews of Central and Eastern Europe.
“Hebrew Printing in Ukraine” (2008), mounted on the tenth anniversary of the Kiev Room, is devoted to Hebrew books from a center of Jewish civilization whence a large portion of American Jewry stems. The exhibit offers a geographic and typographic panorama of every region of this cultural crossroads: Galicia, Volhynia, Podolia, Bukovina, Kiev, New Russia, sub-Carpathian Ruthenia and the Crimea. Among the displays are ancient, medieval and modern texts in languages using Hebrew characters (Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic and Karaite Tatar), printed over centuries in territories which came under Polish, Russian, Austrian, Romanian, Czecho-Slovak, Hungarian, Ottoman and Soviet rule.
The Kiev Room
Located on the 7th floor of the Gelman Library, the Kiev Room is open to researchers Monday to Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Lectures are held in the Kiev Room regularly during the academic year. The Curator of the Kiev Judaica Collection is available for reference consultations to discuss research topics, help formulate search strategies, and locate useful materials. For more information about using, visiting, or donating to the Kiev Collection, please contact the Curator at:
The I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection
The George Washington University
2130 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20052 (USA)
General Judaica in the Gelman Library
Aside from the Kiev Collection and other Jewish-related archival collections in the Special Collections Research Center, all areas of Judaic Studies, including Hebrew and Yiddish literature, are represented in the general holdings of the Gelman Library, accessible on open stacks. Guides are available for the library’s resources in Judaic Studies, in Holocaust Studies, and in Middle East Studies.
Judaica Collections in the Special Collections Research Center
The Special Collections Research Center holds a number of archival and book collections relevant to Judaic studies or allied fields. On-line and/or printed guides are available for most of these collections.
Washington-related Judaica Collections
A number of archival collections document the Jewish experience in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. These include several organizational archives, namely:
The SCRC holds the personal papers of a number of individuals significant in Jewish literature or culture, or active in public or political life, especially in the Washington area. Among these are the:
Cartography of the Holy Land; American Bibles
The Center holds several collections relevant to Oriental and Biblical studies, particularly the cartography and art of the Holy Land. These include:
The Middle East Institute Rare Book Collection
In 2008 the SCRC acquired the Middle East Institute Rare Book Collection (formerly in the Washington, DC based Middle East Institute), composed of oriental literature and orientalist scholarship relating to the Middle East, the Ottoman lands and Central and South Asia. Along with many European travelogues to Palestine and Egypt, the collection includes the rare Spanish translation from Ladino of Moses Almosnino’s Extremos y grandezas de Constantinopla (Madrid, 1638).
Finding Aids, Guides, and Catalogues to the Archival and Special Collections
For a set of the online finding aids or research tools for most of the above archival collections, go to http://gwlibrary.wrlc.org/collections/SCRC/research-tools/collections-by-topic/judaica-collections. Printed guides are also available for some of the collections. The Holy Land Maps Collection, the Middle East Institute Rare Books, and the American Bibles are catalogued online in the WRLC Catalog.
Jewish Culture in Film
The Gelman Library holds the Jewish Heritage Video Collection, a gift of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, composed of more than 150 films supporting Jewish cultural studies, including dramas, documentaries and television series. A printed guide and index to the collection is available. The first Kiev Film Series, devoted to “The Jews of Eastern Europe, 1895-1945,” was held in 2008. Plans are underway for a new series on “Jews of the Orient.”
The Kiev Circle of Friends
The Kiev Circle of Friends was established in 2003 to help maintain the activities and projects of the Kiev Judaica Collection. These include:
- Research and scholarship in a variety of subjects and languages;
- Acquisitions of books and reference literature;
- Exhibitions and Jewish outreach programs;
- A foundation for future innovations in Judaic studies and education;
- Preservation of the Jewish cultural heritage for future generations.
To join the Kiev Circle of Friends, or to contribute to the work of the I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection, please visit our donor pages.
The wide-ranging holdings of the Kiev Collection support all areas of Judaic Studies at GWU, for the benefit of local and visiting students and scholars. Your help and participation would be greatly appreciated.