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SA Organisations

A gem of information right in our midst

  • Jewish books generic
The Jewish communities of Cape Town and Johannesburg are blessed to have valuable heritage libraries of SA 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 Issie Maisels Library and audio visual centre based at Beyachad in Raedene and maintained by the Zionist Federation.
by ANT KATZ | Jul 07, 2016

Professional librarian Maxine Fine took charge of the Issie Maisels Library in 2014 and has, ever since, been re-cataloguing the entire collection of unique material related to SA 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. Their range of genre’s spans everything from historical to horror films.

Due to the enormity of the task, the Issie 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 they do lend out.

And long-standing Beyachad employee, Eric Mathobo, who had assisted in the library in the past, was seconded to a full time role at the library, also in 2014.

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

Maxine and Eric are well on their way in their mission to catalogue every book, as it should be, by: subject, author, title, sub-title, publisher, dates, editors, compilers, etc.

This hidden gem opens at 8.30 on weekdays and closes at 4.30pm except Fridays (or erev chagim) when it closes at 2.

Great for Jewish and Zionist studies

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

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

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

While it is a toss-up as to whether Cape Town’s Gitlin or Johannesburg’s Issie Maisels libraries are bigger, both are very comprehensive and both offer both community organisations and the public at large an invaluable research archive.

Both Maisals’ 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 SA Jewish and Israeli settings.

The non-fiction sections specialise in areas such as: Holocaust-related material; historical Judaism; Christian Zionism items and Israeli/Zionist advocacy.

Be sure to pop in and take a look around this great facility which is centrally located on the first floor of Beyachad. For quicker access past Gate security, call ahead and speak to Maxine or Eric on 011 645-2557, arrange a convenient time ask them to advise security to expect you.

2 Comments

  1. 2 Juan-Paul Burke 08 Jul
    Gitlin is obviously superior as it is continuously buying new books while, last I heard, Beyachad is stagnant as the poor librarian is not given a budget for new books.
    Also at Gitlin one can borrow books while, last I heard, not so at Beyachad.

    Also a valuable library for Jewish research is at University of Cape Town Libraries, that maintains a sizable collection of Jewish books across many disciplines and has valuable SA Jewry archival holdings.

    The difference with Gitlin is its focus is more Academic books while Gitlin has more popular Jewish books such as novels - though there is overlap.

    see http://www.jewish.lib.uct.ac.za/
    & http://www.specialcollections.uct.ac.za/sc/finding-aids

    UNISA also has many Academic Jewish Studies books and is the biggest Academic Library in the country.
  2. 1 Juan-Paul Burke 10 Jul
    Beyachad Archives has an emphasis on Jewish Johanesburg & surrounds; UCT Archives has an emphasis on Jewish Cape Town & surrounds. Both archives are extremely valuable

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