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A Lender and a Borrower Be

Barbara Bensoussan

For book lovers, a library is paradise — an opportunity to sample scores of books without running up a hefty tab. There are now Jewish libraries large and small, offering not only books but activities and community events. In honor of Book Month, take a trip to four very different libraries that truly deserve the designation “Special Collections.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In 1972, librarian Zvi Rabin had a day job in a college library. So when his friends wanted him to join them in listening to live farbregens by the Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz”l, which began at 2:30 a.m. London time, they had to twist his arm a bit. One evening, it seemed bashert that Zvi agreed to stay up past his bedtime. It was the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s mother, and, among other topics, the Rebbe spoke of the need to establish Jewish libraries appropriate to each neighborhood. “My Yiddish wasn’t so good then, but I chapped that he was talking about making Torahdig lending libraries,” Zvi says. “Then my friends all gave me the look.” That evening happened just two years after he and his wife Faigie had married, and two years before the first ArtScroll book was published. The couple, who had grown up in Stamford Hill and chosen to affiliate with Chabad, diligently set up an “ad hoc library in a room of the Chabad house with a small collection of books, opening Sunday afternoons and two evenings a week. TheRabins carried on like that for about 12 years. In 1984,RabbiNachmanSudak, the director of Lubavitch UK, obtained six jobs through Manpower Services, a now-defunct government program providing jobs for the unemployed. He allocated two of the jobs to Faigie and another woman for the library, expanding its hours to weekday afternoons and several evenings.

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