The Hendel Family Library

By JEFFREY LAVINE, WJC PRESIDENT

This month, with the suggestions, help (and some writing) of Arlene Ratzabi, I want to focus on one of our gems hidden in plain sight—namely the Hendel Family Library. The Westchester Jewish Center is very fortunate to have a beautiful and bountiful Judaica library that is automated, accessible online, and can be used by its community at almost any time, as well as a fantastic professional librarian to manage it—namely, Arlene Ratzabi. We host activities for congregants of all ages from PJ Library, to Religious School, to adults, in the promotion of Jewish literacy. Our library is an accredited member of the Association of Jewish Libraries. and a member of the Jewish Book Council.

In light of Kristallnacht being commemorated last month, I want to focus on one very important feature of our library—its extensive Holocaust collection as part of the Holocaust Learning Center. The Hendel Library went through a change a number of years ago to include more Holocaust-related literature, DVDs, and other materials divided by age categories ranging from children to adults. We dedicated a beautiful and meaningful Holocaust Memorial in connection with our Capital Campaign. The Library allows us to add a living, interactive component where we can learn—especially for our students, as it serves as a great resource to supplement their schoolwork. We had already been the beneficiary of a solid Holocaust collection. As we built up the HLC collection, we were fortunate to be the recipient of a large donation of books from the estate of Rabbi Samuel Schafler (the father of our congregant Seth Schafler) that added extensive resources to our library. The HLC collection features books in all categories from fiction to history, works on anti-Semitism and racism, memoirs, and biographies for adults and young people. We also have films and most importantly, we have recorded files of Holocaust survivors and their families, including short literature—biographies of WJC members whose families were impacted by the Holocaust, fascinating stories about life before the Shoah, tales of survival, and life afterwards, right in our Library.

The HLC collection features books in all categories from fiction to history, works on anti-Semitism and racism, memoirs, and biographies for adults and young people. We also have films and most importantly, we have recorded files of Holocaust survivors and their families, including short literature—biographies of WJC members whose families were impacted by the Holocaust, fascinating stories about life before the Shoah, tales of survival, and life afterwards, right in our Library.

There are a few other things of note to mention. What a meaningful Renewal Service last month in the wake of the tragedy in Pittsburgh. And again, Dan Berkowitz and Lloyd Russ put together a moving Kristallnacht remembrance. And we had our first SOJAC Shabbat as part of our Mitzvah Weekend. Thank you to all those involved and especially to Sharon Silver for your leadership of SOJAC.

This month, we look forward to a Renewal Service on Thursday, December 6 during Hanukkah, to send into the weekend and the annual Hanukkah party on December 9. I wouldn’t want to miss it!

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