Leibler bequeaths 40,000 book collection to Bar-Ilan University

January 26, 2016 Agencies
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He may not have read all the titles in his book collection of 40,000 volumes, but Isi Leibler knows exactly where each and every one of them is shelved in his Jerusalem home. 

Naomi and Isi Leibler

Naomi and Isi Leibler at Bar Ilan  Photo: Roy Hadad

“If you’d wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me where there’s a book about 16th century Marranos, I can tell you which room it’s in and on which shelf it lies,” he says.  “You can’t read 40,000 books in a lifetime, but I’m familiar with all of them,” adds the distinguished Australian-Israeli international Jewish leader.

Now Leibler, who has amassed one of the most unique, private Jewish library collections, has decided to bequeath it to Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. University officials, including the President, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, Rector Prof. Miri Faust, Director General Menachem Greenblum, Faculty of Jewish Studies Dean Prof. Elie Assis, International Friends Chairman Vera Muravitz, Library System Director Dr. Rochelle Kedar, and others, recently welcomed Leibler, his wife Naomi, who served for many years as President of World Emunah, and their children to campus to celebrate the gift of the Leibler Collection.

A founder of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement in Australia and an ardent religious Zionist, Leibler expressed his pride at having found a new home for his collection at Bar-Ilan University, which so strongly reflects his own Hashkafat Olam (world view).   University President Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz then surprised him by announcing that the University Senate had voted to award Honorary Doctorates to both Leibler and the Bnei Akiva Movement this spring during the University’s 61st annual Board of Trustees meetings.

Leibler’s passion for books, fueled by an intense intellectual curiosity and a deep commitment to Israel and the Jewish people, has grown into this comprehensive, up-to-date, methodic and well-organized library of 40,000 volumes. The Leibler Collection covers all aspects of 4,000 years of Jewish existence in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora – from history to culture and civilization. Leibler says he began collecting books over time, inheriting his love of education from his father.  He, in turn, has instilled his love for education and Jewish education in his children and grandchildren.

The Leibler Collection will contribute important materials that will enrich and augment Bar-Ilan University’s extensive Judaica Library. Of special interest are the wide-ranging materials on Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism, as well as resources on the many and diverse Jewish communities across the world, including relations with their host societies. The materials on the history and development of relatively small though important Jewish communities, such as Australia, New Zealand, China, India, South East Asia, South Africa and South America, will provide a rich resource for Judaica researchers, as will the extensive materials, many of them primary resources, on the establishment of the State of Israel and the struggle for the release of Soviet Jewry.

Over many decades, Isi Leibler has become recognized as a passionate defender of the State of Israel and for his distinguished record of contributions to the Jewish world and the cause of human rights.  Born in Antwerp, Belgium, he and his family moved to Australia just before the outbreak of World War II.  He served successive terms as President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and Chairman of the Governing Board and Chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress.

Leibler was one of the pioneering global leaders in the campaign on behalf of Soviet Jewry, leading Australia to become the first country in the world to raise the plight of Soviet Jewry at the United Nations.  During his numerous visits to the Soviet Union before its collapse, he developed close ties to leading Jewish dissidents and refuseniks, with some of whom he still maintains contact. Paradoxically, when Mikhail Gorbachev liberalized the system, Leibler became the first international Jewish leader to be invited to the Soviet Union to evaluate the changes. He subsequently launched the first Jewish cultural center in the Soviet Union since the Revolution – the Solomon Mykhoels Center in Moscow, together with the first Hebrew Song Festivals in Moscow and Leningrad.

Leibler subsequently focused his efforts on the Asia-Pacific region.  He met with Indian and Chinese leaders, including Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, with whom he played a key role in paving the way for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel, India and China.

Leibler moved from Melbourne to Israel in 1999, settling in Jerusalem. Since then, he has emerged as one of the leading global English language commentators on Israel and Jewish affairs. A prolific writer, he publishes weekly columns in The Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, J-Wire and on his blog Candidly Speaking from Jerusalem.

Comments

One Response to “Leibler bequeaths 40,000 book collection to Bar-Ilan University”
  1. Hilary Rubinstein says:

    Fabulous collection. Fabulous decision.

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