Stanford University

News Service



Diane Manuel, News Service (650) 725-1945; e-mail:

Conference marks acquisition of Hebrew collection

The Hebrew books and periodicals that make up the Israel Cohen Collection in Green Library were delivered in 351 cartons and comprise an estimated 12,000 titles.

But of the 4,800 titles that have been cataloged so far, one stands out for Zachary Baker, the Reinhard Family Curator of Judaica and Hebraica Collections of the Stanford University Libraries.

"It's a cutting-edge anthology published in Warsaw in 1912," Baker told a group of visitors on March 22. "Alongside contributions by the great Hebrew writers of that era is a little article, translated from the original English, by [modern dance pioneer] Isadora Duncan. Why is it included? Perhaps because the editors were looking to the future and her essay emphasizes freedom, liberation and women's rights."

Baker was speaking to some 40 visitors about "A Window on Israeli Literature and Culture: Selections from the Israel Cohen Collection," a new exhibition designed by Elizabeth Fischbach that will be on display in Green Library through April 30. The group of predominantly community members came to campus March 22 for a conference hosted by the Program in Jewish Studies, the Koret Foundation and the Jewish Community Endowment Fund to mark the acquisition of the collection.

With funding help from the Koret Foundation and the Oshman Family Foundation, the Stanford libraries bought the Cohen Collection in 1994 from the cultural activist's two daughters, Hebrew literary historian Nurith Govrin and Dr. Hagit Halperin, both of whom traveled from Israel for the conference.

A prolific writer on literary topics, criticism and translation, Cohen also served as chairman of the Federation of Hebrew Writers in Israel. He collected works published in the 19th and 20th centuries, many of which document the several decades of political activism and Jewish immigration to Palestine that preceded the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Although the Stanford libraries did not have significant holdings in Hebrew as recently as 15 years ago, Baker praised the Cohen Collection as a repository of information about the history, politics, culture and society of Israel and Jewish-Arab relations.

"Cohen was very active in the Yishuv [the Jewish settlement in pre-1948 Palestine] and in helping to develop the Hebrew language and turn it into a modern, technically adept means of expression," Baker said.

He pointed to a popular science volume, titled Television Basics, in one of the four cases on display.

"It's one of my personal favorites, published in 1945, 23 years before the introduction of television broadcasting in Israel."


© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300. Terms of Use  |  Copyright Complaints