How Harvard Came to Have the Largest Judaica Library in the Diaspora

After the National Library of Israel, Harvard University’s library has the world’s largest Judaica collection. Lydialyle Gibson profiles Charles Berlin, who oversees it, and the treasures it contains:

This September marks Berlin’s 60th anniversary with the Judaica Division, which is also turning 60; . . . the division’s holdings (which amount to 5 percent of Harvard Library’s total) include books, periodicals, maps, musical scores, posters, photographs, audio and visual recordings, and all kinds of ephemera. For instance: the assemblage that decorates the metal filing cabinets in Berlin’s office—dozens of refrigerator magnets, from cities around the world, listing local Shabbat candle-lighting times. “Most people will get this from their synagogue once a year,” says the Judaica collection specialist Vardit Samuels, “and afterward they’ll throw it away.” It’s the kind of artifact that’s rarely preserved, except in places like this.

Harvard’s collection of Judaic artifacts dates back to the Puritans. Among the books that John Harvard left to the College in 1638 were a number of Hebrew grammars, and Hebrew was a part of the curriculum from the beginning. (The first president, Henry Dunster, was a Hebrew scholar.) The College Library’s catalog from 1723 lists Hebrew rabbinic texts printed in Italy and the Netherlands, along with Latin translations of Hebrew texts (all, however, destroyed in the fire that consumed Harvard Hall in 1764). More items arrived during the 18th and 19th centuries: 2,000 Yiddish publications donated in 1898, plus smaller and more specialized Judaica collections in the law and medicine libraries.

To keep up the collection, Berlin works with a worldwide network of booksellers and volunteers who send him rare books, posters, wedding and bar-mitzvah invitations, and much else:

“We have people of goodwill who understand how important this is,” Berlin says. “Without them, we would not have this material. It would be lost, basically, forever.” . . . The vendors and volunteers who supply the collection are helping fulfill what Berlin calls “a moral obligation.” Jewish culture, in all its forms, is “an important record of humanity,” he says. “And we want to preserve it.”

Read more at Harvard Magazine

More about: Christian Hebraists, Harvard, Judaica, Libraries

Despite the Toll of War at Home and Rising Hostility Abroad, Investors Are Still Choosing Israel

When I first saw news that Google wasn’t going through with its acquisition of the tech startup Wiz, I was afraid hesitancy over its Israeli founders and close ties with the Jewish state might have something to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong: the deal is off not because of Google’s hesitancy, but because Wiz feared the FTC would slow down the process with uncertain results. The company is instead planning an initial public offering. In the wake of the CrowdStrike debacle, companies like Wiz have every reason to be optimistic, as Sophie Shulman explains:

For the Israeli cyber sector, CrowdStrike’s troubles are an opportunity. CrowdStrike is a major competitor to Palo Alto Networks, and both companies aim to provide comprehensive cyber defense platforms. The specific issue that caused the global Windows computer shutdown is related to their endpoint protection product, an area where they compete with Palo Alto’s Cortex products developed in Israel and the SentinelOne platform.

Friday’s drop in CrowdStrike shares reflects investor frustration and the expectation that potential customers will now turn to competitors, strengthening the position of Israeli companies. This situation may renew interest in smaller startups and local procurement in Israel, given how many institutions were affected by the CrowdStrike debacle.

Indeed, it seems that votes of confidence in Israeli technology are coming from many directions, despite the drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the attack from Yemen, and despite the fact that some 46,000 Israeli businesses have closed their doors since October 7. Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, which creates software that identifies fake news, plans a $70 million IPO on Nasdaq. The American firm Applied Systems announced that it will be buying a different Israeli tech startup and opening a research-and-development center in Israel. And yet another cybersecurity startup, founded by veterans of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit, came on the scene with $33 million in funding. And those are the stories from this week alone.

But it’s not only the high-tech sector that’s attracting foreign investment. The UK-based firm Energean plans to put approximately $1.2 billion into developing a so-far untapped natural-gas field in Israel’s coastal waters. Money speaks much louder than words, and it seems Western businesses don’t expect Israel to become a global pariah, or to collapse in the face of its enemies, anytime soon.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: cybersecurity, Israeli economy, Israeli gas, Israeli technology, Start-up nation