The Offenbach Suite: The displacement and repatriation of rare Jewish texts

The Offenbach Suite: The displacement and repatriation of rare Jewish texts

Thu, 16 March 2023, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4)

Register here.

Join us for a virtual workshop featuring rare books from both the Jewish Public Library’s Michael D. Paul Rare Books Initiative and the University of Pennsylvania’s Special Collections. Eddie Paul and Nicole Beaudry (JPL) and Dr. Bruce Nielsen (UPenn) will be sharing their expertise about their holdings in a one hour, virtual workshop on Thursday March 16, 2023 at 12pm EST, followed by audience questions. Please use the built-in registration to the right of your screen to RSVP for this live zoom webinar. Zoom link will be sent out via email ahead of the event.

The Offenbach Suite: The displacement and repatriation of rare Jewish texts

In early 1946, the U.S. Army organized an effort to repatriate some 3 million books that had been looted by the Nazis. The collection was gathered in a warehouse in the town of Offenbach am Main, just outside Frankfurt; the building had itself been confiscated from the chemicals conglomerate, I.G. Farben, the manufacturer of the gas used at Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

The repatriation of these texts was successful in some cases but in others, millions of books were left without a home where they could be returned. These books were distributed around the world to cities which had resettled Jewish populations. In 1949 approximately 160,000 books came to the United States. Others ended up in Israel and across Europe; Canada received a few thousand and most of these ended up at the Jewish Public Library. In Philadelphia, many ended up in the library at the former Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning, which merged with the University of Pennsylvania in 1993 and today that library is housed in the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. The story has become especially well-known over the last few years following the 2014 release of the film, The Monuments Men.

Since provenance is a vital component of rare books research, the efforts of researchers and librarians include the close examination of bookplates, signatures, marginalia, and other markings on these books to trace their origins: the UPenn staff have been able to identify entire collections as a result of this research; the JPL’s rare book collection for the most part, lacks any identifiable markings and it is here where this rare books workshop collaboration converges. For some Jewish libraries and institutions, tracing provenance is detective work, an attempt to reunite orphans with their parents who perished long ago. This workshop will focus on the work UPenn has been undertaking as well as the efforts of the JPL librarians to bind the threads of provenance though educated guesswork and all the ways in which the lives of books parallel the lives of those who owned them.

About the Presenters

Dr. Bruce Nielsen, Judaica Public Services Librarian & Archivist, Penn Libraries

Bruce has an M.Div. degree from Union Theological Seminary; from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, he has a Master’s degree in Talmud and a Ph.D. in Ancient Judaism. At the JTSA, most recently he served as assistant dean of the graduate school and director of summer sessions. Bruce proposed, designed and implemented the Excellence in Teaching Program at the JTSA. Earlier in his career, he served as the coordinator of the Saul Lieberman Institute for Talmudic Research, one of the pioneering efforts to computerize collections of rabbinic literature, with an emphasis on transcriptions of all known manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud. Bruce has an extensive record of publications and his scholarship displays an intensive engagement with rare books and manuscripts, a deep knowledge of bibliography in general and the history of the Jewish book in particular. Bruce is a skilled papyrologist with classical training in Greek and Latin, as well as Hebrew and Aramaic, and is regarded as perhaps the leading expert on Daniel Bomberg, a sixteenth-century Christian Hebraist and printer, who was responsible for producing landmarks in early Hebrew printing, such as the Rabbinic Bible and the first complete printing of the Babylonian Talmud.

Nicole Beaudry, Librarian and Rare Books Specialist, Jewish Public Library

Nicole Beaudry currently works as an instruction and academic support instruction librarian in Vancouver but worked at the Jewish Public Library for 6 years as a reference librarian, interim director of the Archives, and of the Norman Berman Children’s Library. Her extensive research on the provenance and printing histories of the Jewish Public Library’s rare book collection has in large part shaped the workshop initiative. She has a special interest in the historic and often unexamined roles of women in the history of the Jewish printing trade.

Eddie Paul, Senior Director of Library and Learning Services, Jewish Public Library

Eddie oversees collections development, cataloguing, and reference services at the JPL. For the last few years, he has also developed education outreach programming that includes the Michael D. Paul Rare Books Initiative, the “Where Do You Think You Come From” genealogy workshops for youth, and a series of other projects designed to create convergences between the JPL’s Archives and Special Collections and the public through storytelling. He has worked in various capacities at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library at McGill University, Scott Library at York University, the Toronto Public Library, as well as Library & Archives Canada.  In 2014, he curated the JPL’s first rare book exhibit and catalogue entitled “A Roomful of Dwellings”, in addition to having co-curated an exhibit in 2017 with the Jacob Lowy Collection (Library & Archives Canada) entitled “Decanting Memory: 500 Years of Jewish Printing”. The rare book workshop program has included collaborations with LAC, University of Toronto, McGill University, Carleton University, the Montreal Holocaust Museum, the National Library of Israel, as well as important Judaica rare book collections in universities across the US.

Event image source: Ratibor, Germany, books confiscated by the ERR unit. Courtesy of Yad Vashem Photo Archives, The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre.

If you have any technical difficulties or require accommodations to access this event, please reach out to

Give the Gift of Truth This Jewish New Year

The Media Line has been leading for more than twenty years in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

We're proud of the dozens of young students we've trained in our Press and Policy Student Program who will form the vanguard of the next generation of journalists to the benefit of countless millions of news readers.

Non-profit news needs public support. please help us with your generous contributions.
The Media Line
We thank our loyal readers and wish you all the happiest of holidays.

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.