· Hebrew and Aramaic (incl. Early Hebraists)
· Jewish Liturgy
· Jewish Music
· Jewish History (especially for specific European countries)
· Jewish Philosophy and Thought
· Rabbinics (Midrash, Talmud, Mishnah, Codes, Modern Halacha)
· Religious Jewish movements (specfcially Progressive Judaism and Masorti)
· Jewish Education
· Pastoral Care and Management
· Interfaith (Jewish-Christian, Jewish-Muslim and Jewish-Christian-Muslim)
Although our focus is mainly on European Judaism, the library contains important works from North America as well as works from South America, Australia, South Africa and other regions. The library also has books on Jewish literature, Holocaust, Yiddish, Israel and Zionism.
The Sermons and Lectures of Rabbi John D Rayner
The library houses 1,137 sermons given by Rabbi Rayner from 1953 to 2004 and his 646 lectures from 1951 to 2004. (See the collection in our catalogue and click here to access the archive).
176 books that were owned by the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin and rescued from Nazi Germany form the basis of the collection. These books came to Leo Baeck College via former lecturers and students of the Hochschule. In addition, the library received three books from the rare books collection of the Hochschule as a part of the Judaica Conservancy Foundation (See the collection).
After WWII, Allied forces discovered millions of Jewish books, many in very bad condition. These books are ones that the Nazis looted from European Jewish homes, institutions, individuals, schools, synagogues and Jewish libraries with the intention of creating a research library about Judaism. The American military created a central collection point for these books, which was called the Archival Depot Offenbach (near Frankfurt/Main) and work began to distribute the books either to surviving members of the families and the countries from which they had originated or to new Jewish institutions. Some of these books came to LBC and were amongst the first to support the first generations of students in their study of Jewish texts. Some of the books are stamped with the words “Archival Depot Offenbach” (See the collection).
Jacob Jacobson Collection
Dr. Jacob Jacobson and his only son Marcus Amram Israel Jacobson donated from their personal collection 344 books to Leo Baeck College in 2011. These books form an important collection of classic and rare works of the Wissenschaft des Judentums. Jacob Jacobson was an historian and archivist and was the Director of the Gesamtarchiv der deutschen Juden from 1920 to 1939. In May 1943 he was deported to Theresienstadt. Following his liberation, he immigrated to Great Britain in 1945 (See the collection).
Paris Sanhedrin Books
This collection of books and pamphlets, mainly from 1806-1807, relate to the Paris Sanhedrin summoned by Napoleon. Other books relating to the Sanhedrin are located elsewhere in the library and can be found using the catalogue (See the collection).
The sermons of Rev Vivian Simmons
The library holds manuscripts of the Rev Vivian Simmons sermons given between 1948 and 1967.
The sermons and lectures of Rabbi Israel Mattuck
For those who are interested in the manuscripts of Rabbi Mattuck’s sermons given in the early years of the 20th century, they are at present housed outside of the LBC Library. Please contact the LBC librarian.
The Sermon Collections owned by Chief Rabbi Dr Joseph H. Hertz [Long-Term Loan]
The library houses approximately 50 books containing sermons published by various German and Austrian rabbis for various occasions during the nineteenth century (See the collection).
The Judaica Conservancy Foundation
The Judaica Conservancy Foundation is a joint undertaking by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati; the Hebrew University, Jerusalem; the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York; Leo Baeck College, London; the Leo Baeck Institute, New York; and Yeshiva University, New York . The intention is to share the ownership of and provide access to rare books and manuscripts once owned by the German Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. The rare books located in the Leo Baeck College Library include:
- Kol Bo. [Code of rites and ceremonials]. [Italy, unidentified printer, c. 1485(?)].
- Seder Haggadah Shel Pesach. Pressburg 1730. Ms., 20 leaves. Fully illuminated title page, eleven quarter page illustrations, 45 miniatures, most of the illustrations in pen and ink, however 22 of 45 miniatures are heightened with colour. Original binding of painted vellum gilt, with fragment of original slipcase.
- Luzzato, Samuel David of Trieste, Mavdil Nirdafim [Synonym Hebraica or Explanation of Hebrew Synonyms and various Obscure Biblical Verses]. Ms., Sephardic script, early 19th cent.
Manuscripts and books held by the other members of the Foundation can be accessed at the LBC Library on microfilm.
The London Bet Din Library
A collection of 110 Hebrew books from the library of the London Bet Din, mainly belonging to the first formally recognised Chief Rabbi of England Solomon Hirschel (1762-1845), were acquired after his death. These books were purchased on three separate occasions between 2001 and 2004.
This collection consists of a large number of pamphlets on Zionism, donated by the late Bernard Cecil Gillinson (See the collection).
In 1989, Michael Podro (1931-2008) donated his father’s 5,000-volume library to the Leo Baeck College library. Joshua Podro’s library is a collection of Jewish books from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, dealing specifically with Central European Jewry. The collection contains important and some rare items in all areas of the Wissenschaft des Judentums. With the exception of the rare books, the collection has been kept together on its original shelves (See the collection).
Victor Tunkel Music Collection
About 1400 items containing books on musicological research on biblical cantillation, liturgical music, and various music scores of liturgical music from the 17th century to the present have been donated to the library. The collection is enriched by items from the library of Judith Cohen (nee Kozubei), containing music scores for choirs and music by Jewish composers who were friends of Judith Cohen (See the collection).
Over 200 rare books, mostly dating from the 16th-18th century, and some extremely rare earlier items, are located in the library. The collection in the main pertains to early Hebraist studies, 16th century descriptions of Jewish Life, editions of bible commentaries and rabbinical texts. A special part of the Schorr Collection is the Catherine Lewis Liturgy collection, containing antique and very rare prayer books and other rare liturgical material. Leo Baeck College Library hosts these books on a long term loan (See the collection).
Soviet Jewry Movement Collection
In 2014 Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers donated approximately 100 books from the library of her grandfather, Professor Dr Michael Sherbourne (1917-2004). Dr. Sherbourne was a leading figure in the campaign for Soviet Jewry (See the collection).
The library maintains a large collection of contemporary periodicals as well as many old issues of current and out of print journals. These periodicals can be found through the library catalogue by doing an advanced search for “item type: periodical”.
Periodicals are not shelved in the main library. The librarian will retrieve the periodicals for those interested. Library members can request periodicals through the library website by clicking on their personal page and then the button marked ‘J’.