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Community libraries - gems of Jewish info

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SA Jewry has several valuable heritage libraries and archives in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. Cape Town's Gitlin Library is the most active, while Maxine Fine, pictured, is the librarian at the SA Zionist Federation's Isie Maisels Library at Beyachad in Johannesburg. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies also houses and maintains a venerable document archive at Beyachad dating back to the earliest Jewish communities in South Africa.
by ANT KATZ | Jul 14, 2016

Communal gems

The Jewish communities of Cape Town and Johannesburg have valuable heritage libraries of South African Jewry. Cape Town’s pride is the Gitlin Library, while Johannesburg has several resources libraries - an extensive document archive managed by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and The Isie Maisels Library and Audio-Visual Centre based at Beyachad in Raedene and maintained by the Zionist Federation.

Librarian Maxine Fine took charge of the Isie Maisels Library in 2014 and has, ever since, been re-cataloguing the entire collection of unique material related to South African Zionism. It is especially well-used by academic researchers.

The very well-stocked and regularly updated audio-visual library, on the other hand, is a lending library and is well supported by both local Jewry and Israelis. Its range of genres spans everything from historical to horror films.

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RIGHT: Maxine Fine and Eric Mathobo - PIC: Benji Shulman




Due to the enormity of the task, the Isie Maisels Library was turned, for the most part, into a “reference” library (in other words, look but don’t lend). There are, however, still some books that may be taken out.

Long-standing Beyachad employee, Eric Mathobo, who had assisted in the library in the past, was seconded to a fulltime role at the library in 2014.

“Every item in the audio-visual library has been catalogued and numbered,” says Mathobo. “The majority of DVDs are Jewish interest,” he adds, and most popularly loaned-outs are documentaries. They have people taking out or returning DVDs on a daily basis. All Hebrew-language DVDs have English subtitles.

Fine and Mathobo are well on their way to catalogue every book, as it should be, by subject, author, title, sub-title, publisher, dates, editors, compilers, etc.

This library opens at 08:30 on weekdays and closes at 16:30 except Fridays (or erev chagim) when it closes at 14:00.

The educational value of this treasure trove has not been lost and more and more educators, learners and students are making use of this resource.

They also have a massive collection of cuttings from mainstream newspapers on South African Jewry and Israel, as well as bound reference copies of almost every edition of all Jewish newspapers published in the country over the past 150-odd years.

This collection includes over 15 000 books and in excess of 1 400 unique DVD titles (they have multiple copies of the more popular titles).

Both the Gitlin and Isie Maisels Libraries are very comprehensive and both offer community organisations and the public at large an invaluable research archive.

Both the Maisels’ print and DVD collections contain a good mix of unique fiction and non-fiction titles. The fiction sections are mostly populated with books and films written about, or made in Israel or South Africa and in a South African Jewish and Israeli setting.

The non-fiction sections specialise in areas such as Holocaust-related material; historical Judaism; Christian Zionism items and Israeli/Zionist advocacy. This facility is centrally located on the first floor of Beyachad. 

3 Comments

  1. 3 adrian freedamn 14 Jul
    I live overseas/ Is there any way I can access information?
  2. 2 Jp 17 Jul
    Also see http://www.jewish.lib.uct.ac.za/
    & http://www.specialcollections.uct.ac.za/sc/finding-aids
  3. 1 Jp 18 Jul
    & http://www.gitlinlibrary.co.za/ActiveConnect/default.html

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