Menahem Schmelzer, a Hungarian refugee who for more than two decades was the doting custodian of one of the world’s greatest collections of ancient Hebrew and other Jewish manuscripts and books as the librarian of the Jewish Theological Seminary, died on Dec. 10 at his home in Manhattan. He was 88.
During Professor Schmelzer’s tenure as chief librarian, from 1964 to 1987, the seminary’s collection of almost 245,000 volumes was a primary destination for scholarly inquiry into the history and literature of the Jewish people.
With ambitions to rival the Hebraica and Judaica libraries at Oxford University and at the British Museum, the Jewish Theological Seminary library, in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, was largely assembled in the early 20th century with gifts from wealthy collectors like Jacob Schiff of New York and Mayer Sulzberger of Philadelphia. Professor Schmelzer enhanced the library with acquisitions from Sotheby’s and other auction houses, and through private sales. He reorganized the book stacks and modernized the cataloging.
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