Monday, April 3, 2017

Yeshivat Har Etzion Library Celebrates 35 Years


Yeshivat Har Etzion Library Celebrates 35 Years

At this time 35 years ago, at the end of Adar 5742 (1982), the Yeshiva's library building was completed. The founding leadership of the Yeshiva envisioned a library with a rich and diverse collection of Torah literature which would serve Torah scholarship and would facilitate the love of Torah at the Yeshiva, in the flourishing Gush Etzion, and beyond. To this end, a large and unique library facility was constructed as part of the Yeshiva's campus. I, Aharon Bejell, now the yeshiva's chief librarian, had just joined the staff of two young kollelnikim who dealt with the library at that time. Together we transferred a small collection of about 10,000 volumes from a classroom under the Beit Midrash to the new library reading room. This was enough to fill only the first three rows of bookshelves near the entrance to the library. The greater expanse of the library was left empty for continued development of the collection.

This aroused great excitement in the Yeshiva as a reflection of the powerful educational vision of Yeshivat Har Etzion, which included a grand Torah library as an important feature of the Yeshiva's unique educational environment. In the academic world, it would be unfathomable to even consider a university or college without a broad based library.  However, in the yeshiva world, to this day, we do not usually find extensive Torah libraries, and the student's exposure to Torah literature and culture is therefore very limited. Contrary to this, the founders of Yeshivat Har Etzion believed that this exposure would actually be a catalyst to enhance the Torah growth experience of the students and would provide them with the tools necessary to meet the challenges and complexities of Jewish life, as individuals and as members of the greater community.

Thirty one years ago I received the responsibility to direct the library, with much emphasis put on professional development of the library's staff, collection development and computerization. During those formative years, Dvorah Rachmani, Leah Siegel, Yael Brun and Meira Solberg, joined the library staff and played major roles in the library's development. Together, we fulfilled our mission, and today the reality has surpassed the original vision. Also, generations of choice Yeshiva students helped with varied tasks in the library, especially with keeping order in the library and manning the library during the night shifts. Due to their diligence and devotion, you have before you today an amazing, high quality Torah library, renowned throughout Israel and the Jewish world.

The library has many achievements. The rich and diverse Torah collection has surpassed the 90,000 volume mark. The collection includes about 15,000 volumes of antique and rare volumes, predating the Holocaust, which serve as a testimony to our ancestor's dedication to the Torah and its transmission from generation to generation. The library has amassed a collection of over 1,000 unique Torah periodicals, mostly published in the past century. The majority of which are not active anymore, and the institutions which published them are no longer in existence. However, many of the articles are relevant until this day. In addition to the printed collection, the library boasts a fine selection of Torah digital resources.

We created this exceptional Torah library in order to present you with a great challenge.  We wish to arouse within you the love of Torah, and to entice you to deep Torah learning which will enrich your soul and your intellect. 

We take this opportunity to call upon you to visit the Yeshiva's library frequently and set out on a personal voyage of exploration. Don't relate to our library as a book storage facility, where you can find the most popular and well known books, or even those which you may need occasionally. Take advantage of your time in the Yeshiva to explore the breadth and depth of our collection and you will find a treasure of books and authors which you were never aware of. 

Take this wealth with you to the exciting atmosphere of the Beit Midrash and use it to empower your learning there. However, when you experience the library it is most important for you to realize that the wonderful librarians are there for you. We wish to help you and share with you our accumulated knowledge and our love of Torah and the Torah library which we gave life to.
Bon Voyage,

Aharon Bejell

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