Yale has a long and rich tradition in the study of Jewish religion, history, and thought dating back to Yale's founding, when Hebrew language was a required course of study. Now, with an undergraduate major in Judaic Studies, and a graduate program training future academic leaders, the study of Jewish life and thought is thoroughly integrated into the University's offerings in the Humanities.
The Yale Library Judaica holdings have grown slowly but steadily since the University's founding in 1701. Following the receipt of two major gifts in 1915, the Yale Library established a separate Judaica collection which is recognized as one of the major collections of Judaica in the country. The focus of the 95,000 volume collection, which includes manuscripts and rare books, is biblical, classical, medieval, and modern periods of Jewish literature and history, and supports the research needs of the faculty and students of the University's Judaic Studies Program and those of the broader academic community.
The social, religious, and cultural lives of the Jewish people are reflected in the Library's collections. Religious law, Sephardic studies, rabbinics, Jewish philosophy and modern thought, talmudica, and Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino languages and literatures are all represented in the collection.
Rare materials are housed in the Manuscripts and Archives Department of the Sterling Memorial Library and in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Among the rare and unusual Judaica at the Beinecke Library are some 150 manuscripts and 45 incunabula (books printed before 1501). Special features of this impressive holding include the Selah Merrill Collection of Josephus, the Goodhart Collection of Philo imprints, and the Sholem Asch Collection. Materials of a political nature can be found in the Department of Manuscripts and Archives. Items of interest include the papers of the Palestine Statehood Committee. Yale's official records documenting the history of Jews at Yale are also housed in Manuscripts and Archives.
Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period by Erwin R. Goodenough. New York, 1953-68
Illustration: Scenes from the Book of Esther. Section of the wall paintings from the ancient synagogue in Dura-Europos.
A unique and important element in Yale's collections, are the Dura-Europos (Syria) wall paintings and artifacts. Between 1928 and 1937 Yale participated in the excavation of the ancient Byzantine city. As a result of its work there, Yale has a complete copy of the reconstructed Dura-Europos fresco from the ancient synagogue that was uncovered there during the expedition. Several are currently on display in the History of Art Department.