Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
Preserving for researchers the venerable history of Jewry
The world’s oldest surviving Haggadah, the service for Passover, resides in this remarkable library dedicated to research. This fragment from Old Cairo is a millennium old and has good company: Judaica, Jewish history, Yiddish materials-in all more than 180,000 books and 1,000 journals.
The Rare Book Collection contains approximately 8,000 printed books with a specialty in Jewish law and liturgy. Incunabula (books printed before 1500) number 32 and more than half are in Hebrew. There are manuscripts, codices in Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, and Samaritan, and hundreds of Cairo Genizah fragments. Modern papers include those of 19th century figures in Philadelphia Jewry: Rabbi Isaac Leeser, Judge Mayer Sulzberger and college founder Moses Aaron Dropsie.
More often than not, libraries are dispersed at the demise of their host institutions. When Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning failed, its library became an exception. Thanks to the late philanthropist Walter Annenberg, the library founded by 19th century Philadelphian Moses Aaron Dropsie was kept intact in a new research facility. A few years later the collection joined the University of Pennsylvania.
Open for research only Mon – Thu. Please phone in advance. Photo ID is necessary for entrance.
The collections 1,000-year old Haggadah fragment survived because Jewish law dictates that imperfect texts be preserved in the Genizah, or synagogue storeroom. In this ancient form of the Passover service, only three questions are asked, not the traditional four.
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