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Israel, Russia strike deal to digitize unique collection of Hebrew manuscripts

Passover Hagada, Frankfurt am Main (Germany) 1725 from The Günzburg Collection Made Public to the Jewish World
The National Library of Israel
Collection touches on the mysticism of Kabbalah, Jewish ritual law, medicine, astronomy, and philosophy

A historic agreement struck between Israel’s National Library in Jerusalem and the Russian State Library in Moscow will enable the digitization of one of the world’s most important collections of Hebrew books and manuscripts, the Günzburg Collection, making them for the first time wholly accessible to the general public.

The landmark agreement, which will be signed Tuesday in Jerusalem in a ceremony attended by both Israeli and Russian dignitaries, marks a significant milestone in cooperation between Israel’s National Library and Russia’s State Library, which began exactly a century ago.

The Günzburg Collection, described as, “one of the most significant of its kind” contains thousands of Jewish manuscripts and books spanning the middle ages to the modern day.

The National Library of Israel

Touching on the mysticism of Kabbalah, Jewish ritual law, medicine, astronomy and philosophy, the drive sponsored by the Peri Foundation will see 2,000 unique historical documents digitized in order to expand access for individuals and institutions across the world.

The collection was assembled over three generations of the aristocratic Günzburg  Russian-Jewish family, beginning in the mid-19th century. By the early 20th century, it was considered one of the most important collections of Judaica in the world.

“There’s no question that even today the collection is a national cultural treasure for the Jewish people,” Dr. Aviad Stollman of the National Library said in a statement.

“Modern information technology has opened new and unlimited possibilities for accessing the cultural values of countries and their peoples” said Vladimir Gnezdilov, Acting General Director of the Russian State Library.

The National Library of Israel

“New technology has the potential to assist in comprehending one’s identity, history and culture, change approaches to education, and give access to the exploration of historical heritage,” said  Ziyavudin Magomedov, a Muslim Russian billionaire who heads the Peri Foundation, and who is active in cultural preservation.

“Humanitarian collaboration is extremely important for a balanced world.”

Once digitized, the collection will be accessible on the National Library’s Ktiv website, which already contains tens of thousands of digital copies of rare Hebrew manuscripts.

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