Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California

JCLLA (Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles) was founded in 1947, and became the central library of Los Angeles. It was maintained by the Jewish Federation and supervised by the Bureau of Jewish Education. In 2009, due to major budget cuts, the Jewish Federation closed the JCLLA, in spite of wide community opposition. Because JCLLA was of great importance to our members, AJLSC maintained a chronicle of its closing, through 2012.

Jewish Community Library

of Los Angeles (JCLLA) -- Archives

2009 Closing; Distribution of Holdings & Services; Updates through August 2012

Announcement from American Jewish University - August 2012

In the Fall of 2012, American Jewish University (AJU) will open its newly rebuilt libraries:  "The Bel and Jack M. Ostrow Library and the Burton Sperber Memorial Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles -- 22,000 square feet of unique exhibits, rare collections, and interactive multimedia experiences. . . . The Sperber Community Library will provide a multi-purpose area for casual study, lectures, and a range of events to compliment AJU’s community programs.  This community library will also feature popular books from the university’s collections and rotate unique elements through the year."  For more details - see the AJU website .


Finale - April 2011

The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, a central library of Los Angeles, was closed in 2009 by the Jewish Federation (due to major budget cuts) and much of its collection and services have been dispersed for some time now.  Since there is no new "news," the story of JCLLA is now part of our AJLSC Archives, and it is set forth as it happened on this webpage.  The distribution of its holdings are listed here; the chronicles of its closing are recorded below.
     1)  The Slavin Family Children's Library funding is continuing.
     2)  American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism) has incorporated much of the the JCLLA adult collection into its Ostrow Library.
    3)  AJU's Ostrow Library and the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California share the JCLLA Archives.  
    4) The Library of the Builders of Jewish Education (formerly Bureau of Jewish Education) has retained some of the education collection for use by its BJE Staff.
    5)  The remainder of the collection was offered to the libraries in the Los Angeles community.
(Editor's note:  It was a sad day when the Jewish Federation decided no longer to fund JCLLA!  It was an excellent Library, headed by Library Director Abigail Yasgur, and one that we relied on and were proud to have in our community!)

Update - February 2011

The Slavin Family Children's Library is open and continuing to offer programs.

Update - December 2010

The Slavin Family Children's Library is awaiting word on whether the Federation will continue its funding.  The Jewish Journal, December 15, 2010, published an article describing the situation: "Children's Library in Jeopardy" by Rachel Heller.

Update - November 2010

American Jewish University has a new title for Ostrow Library in its Whizin Center for Continuing Education Catalog, starting with Fall 2010.   The Library events catalog page is now titled:  "Bel & Jack Ostrow Library incorporating the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles."   Also, a promotional page (page 7) in the Winter 2011 catalog includes JCLLA in the Library name.  AJU Ostrow Library is featuring "New Monthly Book Events Serving the Jewish Community" and a Book Club -- see AJLSC Calendar for programs and information.
     FYI, on page 16 of the Whizin 2011 catalog, is a boxed text, that reads as follows:
              "Bel & Jack M. Ostrow Library invites Whizin students to use ourcollection, which now incorporates holdings from the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles.  In adition to a large Judaica collection, we have fiction, CDs, and DVDs in Hebrew, English and other languages.  Library cards are FREE to Southern California residents.  Stop by before or after class or search our online catalog at"
    Also, the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles collection is listed among the collections on the Ostrow Library webpage.

Update - September 2010

The collections of the now closed Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles still exist - in four locations:

1) Slavin Family Children's Library:  This library is continuing to function beautifully, thanks to its two children's librarians:  Sylvia Lowe and Amy Muscoplat.  It maintains a good children's collection:  Books, CDs, DVDs, games, computer software; and they have storytime and family programming.  It also has many materials appropriate for teachers - Pre-school through Grade 5.  Access the library's online catalog and select those items with EDUC in its call no.   This library maintains a Facebook account on which they post their activities.  Contact the Library for a calendar with all activities and programs through December 2010.    Subscribe to the Library to get emails about events, bibliographies, news, resources, statuses, links, photos, notes, videos, etc. 
     Location:  First Floor of Jewish Federation Bldg., 6505 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles 90048.  Hours:  Sunday 12pm-4pm; Tuesday 11am-6pm; Wednesday and Thursday 12pm-6pm.  Closed Monday/Friday/Saturday.  (Operated by the Bureau of Jewish Education, a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.)

2)  The JCLLA adult and reference collections, and over 850 VHS tapes and 700 other media titles (after BJE made its selection), have been merged with the Ostrow Library collection at the American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Dr., Bel-Air, California 90077 - Email: - Tel:  (310) 440-1238 - website: .  The official name is now: 
     The Bel & Jack Ostrow Library of the American Jewish University,
     Incorporating the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles.
Paul Miller, AJU Director of Library Services, "extends a special invitation to AJLSC members to visit the Library, explore our resources, and help us make Jewish books and learning available to the whole community."  Paul reports the following:
         a)  The entire library is free and open to the public.  The online catalog is at .  The Library has thousands of titles of interest to the general public, including a large media collection and various genres of Jewish literature in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, and Ladino.   We have had a marked increase in the use of our collection and reference services by the general public since the incorporation of the JCLLA collection - so the word is getting out to the community.
         b)  Monthly book events, book clubs, and the annual Celebration of Jewish Books are coordinated by AJU's Whizin Center for Continuing Education, (310) 440-1246.   To subscribe to our new ezine, Al Ha-Madaf, email:
         c)  Note to Librarians:  The JCLLA collection has been intershelved with the AJU collection to achieve the best access to the books and materials.  JCLLA books were usually put on the AJU shelves “as is” without any re-labeling, so most still have “Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles” stamped on them.  Access to the JCLLA Catalog is still available through the JCLLA website. "AJU" is the location symbol in the call no.  The JCLLA collection can be accessed in the AJU catalog by the AJU catalogers, but it is not available in a public search because of software limitations.  AJU is currently uploading all of its records, including JCLLA records, into the OCLC WorldCat database .  The end result of this upload should be that if anyone in the world searches for a title, the AJU Library will appear in the list of libraries holding that title.   The OCLC records will become the basis for our local catalog, but only by speaking with a JCLLA cataloger can the source of the individual copies be ascertained, again because of software limitations. 
        [Editor's comment:  We recognize that the closing of the JCLLA and the merging of the collection with AJU was a difficult process for many.  However, AJLSC members are pleased that AJU has had the respect and appreciation for the JCLLA and its collection, and has incorporated its books and materials in a sound and practical manner to best serve our community.]

3)  BJE Collection located at the Builders of Jewish Education (formerly Bureau of Jewish Education), 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 300, Los Angeles, CA 90048 -  Phone:  (323) 761-8605,  Fax:  (323) 761- 8640,  Email: - and BJE website . .  
      Dr. Gil Graff, BJE Executive Director, describes this collection as follows:  "BJE operated the Federation-established Jewish Community Library (at Federation's request) for quite a few years.  At the point that AJU became Federation's partner for the provision of community library services, BJE was invited to retain some volumes, from the collection previously held by the JCLLA division it had operated, that were likely to be of continuing value as a resource for its (BJE) educational staff.  That (limited) collection -- unlike the Slavin collection and AJU collection -- does not circulate."

4)  Archival Collection:  AJU received the  JCLLA Library Operations archives; the remainder of the archives are with the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California

Final Note:  The remainder of the JCLLA collection (duplicates of the AJU collection) have been donated to other libraries.

Addendum - October 2009

    a)  Paul Miller, AJU Director of Library Services, reported at the October 19 AJLSC meeting that the selection of books and materials for transfer to the AJU collection continues.  He reminded everyone that access is available via the catalogs (see below) and in-person.  He welcomes everyone to visit the AJU Ostrow Library to enjoy and use the JCLLA collection.
    b)  Phil Liff-Grieff, Associate Director, Bureau of Jewish Jewish Education, Los Angeles, sent this email to librarians, about the disposition of the extra JCLLA books:

From: "Phil Liff-Grieff" <>
Date: October 27, 2009 6:23:35 PM PDT
Subject: Distribution of Jewish Community Library Books

Dear Librarians,
This summer, we have been working with the staff of the American Jewish University to effect the merger between the Jewish Community Library and the Ostrow Library of the AJU. The transfer of the Jewish Community Library materials to the American Jewish University is now complete.
The AJU library staff have left thousands of books in the adult collection that are duplicates of volumes already in their collection and we are now looking to distribute these books within the Jewish community.  Our mandate is that, as much as possible, we find homes for these books where they are still circulated and still available for community members to enjoy and benefit from.
Books and other library resources that remain on the third floor at 6505 Wilshire are being distributed to Jewish organizations and institutions based on their capacity to circulate these materials.  We will allow interested institutions to take up to 200 volumes from those left in the collection based on the following criteria:
1)    Do you have an existing library? (this is the minimum requirement for having access to these books)
2)    In addition to having a library, do you have staffing (either paid or volunteer) that manages the circulation of your library’s materials?
3)    In addition to having a library and staff (paid or volunteer) do you allow non-members to check out library materials?
 If you meet one, two or all three of these criteria, you may apply to receive books from those left on the third floor at 6505 Wilshire.  We must receive your application (below) by mail, fax or email by November 4.  The order of being given access to these books will be determined through a lottery in each of the three categories described above.  You will then be notified of when you can come to select your 200 books.
 If you have any questions about this process or the volumes that are available, please contact Phil Liff-Grieff at BJE (; 323-761-8614).
We would like to be able to select books to add to our library.
Name of organization:_________________________________________
Contact person:______________________________________________
Contact info: Email_______________________ Phone_______________
Please check all that apply:
¨ We currently have a library
¨ We have a library and library staff (paid or volunteer)
¨ We have a library, staff and will allow members of the general public to check out materials

Addendum - September 2009

    The latest news is that the Federation is merging the adult collection, audio-video collection, and archives of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles with the Library of the American Jewish University;  the goal is to continue the mission and objectives of the Jewish Community Library at a new location.   The Bureau of Jewish Education has retained some of the collection in its department.  The JCLLA's Library on the 3rd floor of the Federation Building is closed while AJU is evaluating the collection in terms of what will be new and what will be duplicates in its own collection. 
    In the meantime, the community library is functioning in two locations - with two active online catalogs - one at JCLLA and the other at AJU. The Children's Division remains in the Federation Building - 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Ground Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90048.   They are presenting some children's programming to the community.  For the Adult Collection, contact AJU @ 15600 Mulholland Dr., Bel-Air. California 90077 - Email: - Tel: 310.440.1238.
    At the request of AJU, BJE, and the Federation, Rick Burke (former AJU Library Director and former BJE/JCLLA Task Force member) has been asked to work on the merger and transition - currently serving as a volunteer.  In turn, Rick has invited the following to volunteer as advisors -- Susan Dubin (Library Consultant, Valley Beth Shalom Day School Librarian-Teacher, and former BJE/JCLLA Task Force member), Lisa Silverman (Library Director of Sinai Temple), and Barbara Y. Leff (former Library Director of Stephen S. Wise Temple and former JCLLA Library Committee chair/member and Task Force).  They have met with Paul Miller (AJU Director of Library Services) and Rabbi Patricia Fenton (AJU Library Judaica Reference and Outreach Specialist). 
    The transition and move will take time, and AJU requests the community's patience.

Chronicle of the Closing of the
Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles

    Below are copies of correspondence and also articles/blogs from the Jewish Journal and other publications about the JEWISH COMMUNITY LIBRARY OF LOS ANGELES.  Since online blogs disappear quickly, we have maintained this archival file, in chronological order, to keep our members informed.  A website was created and was active (but now no longer exists).
    Below you will find in the following order:
(#1)  A New Vision for Current and Future Service:  A JCLLA Committee Report for the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, Peter M. Kahn Memorial, September 2006.
(#2)  Original email from two JCLLA Library Committee members to everyone concerned about the JCLLA, including librarians, Library Committee, BJE and Jewish Federation - alerting the community to the fact that the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles is in jeopardy.
(#3)  First article in the Jewish Journal, Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2009 edition:  "Jewish Community Library May Merge, Move," by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, dated January 28, 2009.
(#4)  Email from President Judy Cohn to members of the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California, dated February 1 2009.
(#5)  "Library lovers want to see book thrown at AJU takeover of Jewish Community Library," by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Jewish Journal, dated February 3, 2009.
(#6)  "Librarians worry about Jewish Community Library takeover," by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Jewish Journal, dated February 4, 2009.
(#7)  Email from Abigail Yasgur, announcing her resignation as JCLLA Library Director; invitation to farewell event on Feb. 26 at 3:00 pm, at 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90048.
(#8) "Jewish Community Library Director Resigns Amid Merger Talk," by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Jewish Journal, dated February 10, 2009.
(#9) "Jewish library and American Jewish University discuss merger" by Jacob Berkman, Jewish Journal, dated February 11, 2009.
(#10)  "Letter to the Editor" of the Jewish Journal by Rabbi Debra Orenstein, dated February 12, 2009.
(#11)  "Letter to the Editor" of the Jewish Journal by Susan Dubin, AJL President (international professional organization), dated February 12, 2009.
(#12)  Invitation to Abigail Yasgur Tea, from Dr. Gil Graff, BJE Executive Director, dated February 19, 2009.
(#13)  "An Action Plan for A Jewish Library for All" and "Description of the Jewish Community Library" - presented to the JCLLA Library Committee, February 25, 2009.
(#14)  "Letter to the Editor" of the Jewish Journal by Larry Adler, Beverly Hills, dated February 25, 2009.
(#15)  "Opinion - A Library For All Needs a Location For All" by Rabbi David Eliezrie, President of the Rabbinical Council of Orange County, Jewish Journal, dated February 25, 2009.
(#16)  "Jewish Community Library May Shelve Books Elsewhere -- Photo Essay by Francine Orr.  Los Angeles Times.  March 12, 2009.  
(#17)  "Jewish Community Library May Be Bound for New Location" by Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2009.
(#18)  "L.A.’s Jewish Community Library Likely to Move" by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Jewish Journal, dated March 15, 2009.
(#19)  "SAVE THE LIBRARY!" by Abigail Yasgur, former JCLLA Director, -- an op-ed article submitted to the Jewish Journal.
(#20)  "Plans To Move L.A. Community Library ," by Rebecca Spence - Jewish Daily Forward, published March 25, 2009, issue of April 03, 2009.
(#21)  "Letter to JCLLA Committee Members from Chair Jill Lasker," dated June 23, 2009, together with "Press Release" dated June 16, 2009.
(#22)  "Community Library Moving to AJU,"  by Julie Gruenbaum Fax,, issue of July 2, 2009.
"Addendums"  - see above - happenings since the JCLLA adult library has been closed - starting in September 2009.

(#1)  A New Vision for Current and Future Service:
A JCLLA Committee Report for the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, Peter M. Kahn Memorial
- September 2006
(Prepared by the JCLLA Library Committee - but not accepted by the Executive Committee of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles)
     The JCLLA already has many of the necessary components to become an important regional center with diverse and numerous patrons.  However, at this time, the Library’s potential is severely hampered by its lack of visibility, inaccessibility, and space constraints.  In light of this, the Library Committee of the JCLLA has developed the following vision which describes the Library’s goals for implementation now and in forthcoming decades of service.  This vision statement is the first step in developing a more detailed business plan.
    In order to create a Jewish library that is a respected and well-utilized cultural and intellectual center, serving a much broader patron base, the Library ideally must be housed in a separate, free-standing building.  The new building will be larger, with clear signage and adequate parking, located in a vibrant area where many Jews reside, work or can easily access it by car or public transportation.
     Five years ago, the Library Committee created a strategic plan that has never been implemented.  It’s time that we move forward if the Library is to continue to be a vital and important resource in our community.
     In light of this, the Library Committee of the JCLLA has developed the following vision, outlining the Library’s goals for its forthcoming decades of service:
1. Broadening the Patron Base
    A variety of people currently use the Library, but many more could be served.  Here are just a few examples:
      -- Joshua, a public high school student, is doing a report on the Holocaust.  His family is unaffiliated with any synagogue so he has no access to a synagogue-based library for resources where he would have to be a member.  His school and public library lack the resources he needs and he is not able to check out books from any university-based library in the area because he is not a student there.  The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles can help.
    -- Ludmilla, a Russian senior citizen who has not mastered English well enough to easily read English texts, is looking for Jewish literature in Russian.  None of the other libraries in the area can provide this.  Ethiopian and Persian immigrants with similar needs, also seek Jewish literature in their own languages. The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles can help.
    -- Shoshana, an afternoon religious school teacher at a small synagogue, needs curriculum materials to help her plan lessons and activities for her second grade class.  The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles can help.
    -- Ann, an amateur genealogist whose family came West in the early days of American settlement, wants to research her family roots and learn what Los Angeles was like when her family immigrated here, using archival materials about the Jewish community in Southern California.  The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles can help.
     -- Sam, a senior who is physically impaired and not able to leave his assisted living apartment in Van Nuys, needs Jewish books and periodicals of interest to be mailed.  The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles can help.
     Many people in our community do not have the access to resources and programming that is provided by the JCLLA. First, sixty-five percent of the Jewish community in the Los Angeles area are not affiliated with any synagogue and therefore lack access to a synagogue library.  Further, many synagogue libraries are small and are not staffed by professional librarians or adequate library staff. And then most people cannot borrow from local universities and colleges unless they are students or faculty members.  Then too, public libraries don’t offer broad Jewish literature and periodical collections, let alone resources in foreign languages spoken and read by a number of Jewish immigrants.  The JCLLA also emphasizes its resources for educators in a Jewish school system.  And for those who simply cannot physically visit a library, many libraries do not have the capability to deliver materials to them by mail.
      The JCLLA, however, can fill the needs of all these people because it can offer a complete and diversified collection, staffed by degreed professional librarians and a staff knowledgeable in Judaica and research.    

The Library will welcome Jews and non-Jews from across the religious and political spectrums, providing a safe and exciting environment for people to meet, discuss, learn, and participate. In the end the Library will fill the needs of a larger, more eclectic, intellectual and dynamic Jewish community, for example:
· Jews of all denominations and those not affiliated
· Religious and Jewish day school teachers, librarians, and principals
· Rabbis, cantors, paraprofessionals and social workers
· Students in religious and secular day schools
· Students who are home-schooled
· Pre-schoolers and toddlers
· Synagogues and schools without libraries
· Parents
· Singles
· Seniors
· Shut-ins
· Immigrants (Israeli, Russian, Persian, and Ethiopian)
· Israeli Consulate staff
· Jewish Federation staff, including BJE staff
· Artists, writers, filmmakers, and others in the arts and cultural community
· Archivists, historians, genealogists, and academic researchers
· Patrons who are not Jewish
· Other Jewish libraries in the Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

 2. Becoming a Community Focal Point for Intellectual and Cultural Life         
      The Library can be the heart and pulse of our community's intellectual and cultural life--creating the next generation of Jews who understand and embrace Jewish life in all its diversity.
     The new facility will be a beautiful and inviting space, housing its print, audiovisual, and electronic collections, with a performance space and seating, reading and research areas, laptop plug-in areas, a technology center with Internet access, a teacher resource center, a sound studio where patrons can give creative expression to personal Jewish projects or develop new Jewish educational materials, and meeting places, including a cafe that will provide beverages and snacks and promote conversation.  The space will accommodate solitary retreat as well as space for active engagement.
3. Becoming a Center for Increased Diverse and Unique Resources
      The JCLLA collection will continue to reflect the eclectic interests and needs of the community, offering free high quality reference and research services, current periodicals, and online resources.  It will have a full complement of past and current fiction and nonfiction, outstanding children's books, and a specialty section of Jewish cuisine cookbooks.  Movies and CDs will circulate and be previewed at the library with discussion following.  Teachers will rely on the collection of Jewish children’s books and curricular materials.  Books, electronic resources, archives and photographs will be available on-site, at-home through electronic means, or by mail.
     Some of the particulars that the library will make available include the following:
· Children’s and young adult collections
· Adult collection
· Reference collection
· Jewish parenting collection
· Jewish life cycle collection
· Teachers’ collection including curricula software and links
· Periodical collection
· Wireless environment for laptop use
· CDs, DVDs, videotapes, audio books
· Collection of books in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Farsi, Russian
· Collection of Jewish-related newspapers and magazines
· Expansion of Jewish Literacy (key concepts about Judaism and Jews)
· Computer Internet and research links
· Access to a variety of software like online Encyclopaedia Judaica and Electric Library (for searching major print media, transcripts, journals, and viewing maps and photographs)
· Online Library catalog accessible from the Library, office or home
· Educational programs, including those newly created at the library’s media facilities
· Archives of local Jewish history
· Software for projects and presentations
· Online research materials
· Facilities to scan and produce documents (word processing and printing in color, black and white, in Hebrew or Yiddish)
· Compact disk production
· Introductory computer courses and on-site help
· New databases of local resources created and encouraged by JCLLA.

4. Offering a More Comfortable, Accessible, Visible Facility
      This larger, state-of-the-art space will have these physical attributes to accommodate its full complement of services:
· A freestanding building
· In a yet-to-be determined location accessible from L.A. and Ventura counties
· Where a sizeable population of Jews live and work (with secondary focus on state, regional, national, and international patron usage)
· Abundant on-site parking as well as alternative parking on nearby streets   and lots with accommodations for parents with strollers to senior citizens with special needs
· On a site that allows high visibility and significant signage
· With space for bountiful library resources and services (staff areas for processing books, office and used bookstore for Friends of the Library, café, etc.)
· With user-friendly spaces for private areas for research and reading and public spaces for entertainment and educational programs
· Wired for free wireless Internet connection and state-of-the art audio-visual equipment, books and electronic resources with an eye to accommodating future technologies
· Research and study areas
· Meeting and conference rooms for use by JCLLA, individuals, and community organizations for collaborating on projects involving Jewish resources and for creating new Jewish media in a sound-proof studio
· Children’s activity area
5. Increasing Informative and Relevant Programming
       Lectures, author readings and signings, book reviews, film and live performances will draw people in and provide entertainment, education and an opportunity for communal dialogue and growth.  The programs will explore history, religion, current issues, and food and traditions from diverse Jewish cultures.  The programs will be held mostly on-site, as well as out in the community, in schools, and via broadcasting. 
      The library will be designed to educate, nurture, support, and entertain through these programs:
· Films
· Book clubs and media clubs (e.g., a Jewish film group)
· Jewish-subject book and film reviews
· Speakers (including writers, illustrators, and others of community interest)
· Culinary Friends
· Live performances (concerts, puppet shows, readings, plays, etc.)
· Joint programs on timely topics with other organizations (Hillel, Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles, Jewish Historical Society of Southern California, Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California, Yiddish organizations, non-Jewish organizations)
· Outreach via bookstore venues, etc.

6. Forging New Relationships with Other Jewish Institutions
      As a means to strengthen its services, the JCLLA would forge new relationships with other Jewish institutions, e.g. colleges, universities, museums, libraries, schools, synagogues, organizations, community centers as well as other institutions to be developed in the future.  A few of the many possible JCLLA services that would benefit our entire community include:
· Developing new shared Jewish resources and databases
· Long-term loans of selected books and materials for classroom use or research projects
· Workshops on library operations and services for other library staffs in the community
· Cooperative and collaborative Jewish library projects, including County-wide Jewish Book Month projects
· Geniza (Jewish burial service for books and materials)
· Providing a Library Consultant to help other Jewish libraries in the community.
      JCLLA is now at a critical crossroads.  Today, it proudly provides valuable, high quality, broad-based services and resources to the greater Los Angeles community without charge and regardless of religious affiliation.  In a warm, positive and stimulating environment, the Library reflects proudly on both components of its name:  Jewish and Library.
      But tomorrow, the institution faces the specter that it will become outmoded and unable to reach its potential patrons—unless, that is, the Library can be crafted into a more visible and more accessible public entity.  The Library must transform itself from a hidden treasure to a prominent educational and cultural resource center with a significant physical presence.
     The Jews of our region deserve a vibrant JCLLA, unique to the Jewish civic landscape of Southern California.  With proper support, the JCLLA can move forward to a new level of service and excellence as it fulfills its mission.

Submitted by the Library Committee of the JCLLA:
Abigail Yasgur, JCLLA Director
David Nimmer, JCLLA Committee Chair
Sherrill Kushner, Vision Statement Subcommittee Chair
Sandy Bernstein
Eli Boyer
Jean Friedman
Judy and Nat Gorman, Vision Statement Subcommittee
Rachel Grose
Naomi Howland
Judy Katz
Barbara Leff, Vision Statement Subcommittee
Linda Mayman, Vision Statement Subcommittee
Marion Merritt
Carole Oken
Ronda Rose
Joel Stern
Gerry Wacker, Vision Statement Subcommittee
      Contact information:
Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles
6505 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 150
Los Angeles, California 90048
Phone: 323-761-8648; Fax: 323-761-8657
The JCLLA is a department of the Bureau of Jewish Education,
a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation.


Here is a report from Barbara Leff -- AJLSC member, JCLLA Library Committee Member, Bureau of Jewish Education Board Member, and a former Library Director:
     I share two documents with you below.  The first is a note to the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles (JCLLA) Library Committee, et al., and the second is a letter to the Federation staff, et al.  They are self-explanatory.  I am co-author of both; my co-author, Sherrill Kushner, is an attorney who is very dedicated to the cause of libraries, having been involved with the new Santa Monica Public Library.  Sherrill is a librarian-at-heart! 
     I understand the following about the disposition of the JCLLA collection:  The children's collection will remain at the Federation Bldg., first floor.  AJU proposes to have a "community library" on its Bel Air campus without a children's collection and probably without a community librarian!!!   The Bureau of Jewish Education staff proposes to retain and store in a separate room those JCLLA books and materials pertinent to their work - which encompasses a broad range of educational opportunities.  After this cannibalization, the remainder will be shared between AJU and Brandeis Bardin - which means a large amount of duplicate books will probably be discarded.  And, you know there is no easy access via public transportation to the Bel Air campus - is this serving the community?   We urge you to write or call the powers-that-be who are making this decision. 
Dear Members of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles Library Committee and others:
      It has come to our attention that representatives of the Jewish Federation Council have decided to have the American Jewish University, formerly called University of Judaism, absorb the JCLLA except for the children's collection which shall remain as part of the Zimmer Children's Museum.  We understand that severance packages are being investigated for the two Library employees, Abigail Yasgur and Sally Hyam.
     When we learned of this, we were outraged. Our understanding, as members of the Library Committee, was that these initial meetings with AJU were exploratory. There was an expectation that we would be apprised of the progress and consulted. That has not been the case. Attached is a letter that we will send to Federation staff and representatives as well as others.
     You might want to weigh in on this as well by sending your own letter expressing your opinion to Stanley Gold, Chairman of the Board of Jewish Federation Council, c/o Shamrock Holdings, Inc. 4444 Lakeside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505, John Fishel, President of Jewish Federation Council (, and Dr. Gil Graff, Director of the Bureau of Jewish Education (, or by regular mail to Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048.  In the meantime we have asked Jill Lasker, current chair of the Library Committee, to call a meeting of our committee for an update and explanation on the status of the Library so that we can hear firsthand what has happened.
     (signed) Sherrill Kushner and Barbara Leff

To All Those Concerned About the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles:
      We have learned about the recent meeting between Federation and American Jewish University representatives concerning the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles and the repercussions of that meeting. 
      We were under the impression, when the library committee last met, that this meeting with the AJU was only exploratory and that the library committee would be apprised of the possibility of AJU absorbing the JCLLA, a library that has been in existence for 60 years. Instead, we now understand that a decision has virtually been made for the absorption of the Library by AJU without any feedback from the library committee and without any regard to a proposed plan for a stand-alone facility which was the subject of a year’s worth of research by dedicated library committee volunteers. To that end, it appears that severance packages are being considered for the library's two dedicated employees.
      We understand that the children’s library may be overseen by the Zimmer Children’s Museum. If AJU does not retain the children's collection, then AJU cannot function as a true community library. Good libraries like JCLLA, AJU, and Brandeis-Bardin have a basic foundation of similar Judaica – which means overlap and duplication. What will happen to the expensive books and materials that have been carefully collected through the years?
      We're fairly certain that if you had made known these decisions to the community, there would have been a protest and demand for the continuation for the community library, not unlike what happened some years ago during a library review. It is a disgrace that you have not only kept this information from the public but also from the other key stakeholders, including the BJE Board members.
      Why not give a fair hearing to other alternatives, including a new smaller yet more accessible "community library with easy access" per its mission which was established over 60 years ago? The entire library is relevant to the Federation's mission—the education of Jewish adults and children in our community as well as non-Jews.
      To say we are dismayed both at your process and outcome is an understatement. Rather we Library Committee members who worked hard on hammering out a vision statement, complete with budget and detailed space plan, are simply outraged by this usurpation by Federation and AJU. Your actions have negated all of the work and dedication that the committee members put in to find a way to make more accessible this library’s wonderful resources. To dismiss our input and the vision statement out-of-hand shows a lack of respect not only of the committee members but to the community at-large who has benefited and could continue to benefit from the JCLLA. Failing to keep us apprised of your plans adds insult to injury.  It seems as if the library was set up to fail with its lack of good accessibility and signage at Federation.  We were working on correcting that. Instead, your decision to cannibalize this resource dismisses any possibility for its reincarnation.
      Your disrespect is counter to the core Jewish value of “kavod” in our tradition.
      With deep regret,
Sherrill Kushner, J.D., and Barbara Y. Leff, M.L.S.
(310) 394-4835                (818) 981-6920  

(#3) JEWISH JOURNAL -  VOL. 23, NO. 50, PAGES 14-15 -  JAN. 30 - FEB. 5, 2009 -
January 28, 2009
Jewish Community Library May Merge, Move
By Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer, Jewish Journal
      Linda Sanders needed some old Yiddish music to cheer up a 98-year-old woman she visited regularly, and she knew just where to find the obscure recordings — at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, in The Jewish Federation building on Wilshire Boulevard.
       Sanders has been one of a small but loyal base of patrons who has always found what she was looking for there — anything from old WW II films or books on Jewish humor to recently released novels, or just a quiet place to take solace with a book of psalms.
      But now Sanders is worried the library’s convenience and personal service could disappear, as The Federation, which funds the library, is laying the groundwork for a potential merger of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles with the library at American Jewish University.
      The proposed merger would leave the children’s collection at 6505 Wilshire but move much of the 30,000-volume collection of books, music, videos and community archives to the Familian Campus of AJU on Mulholland, off the 405 Freeway. AJU would open the collection to the public in a proposed expanded facility that would serve both academic and community needs, in a location halfway between the major Jewish population centers of the Valley and city.
      Proponents of the merger say this could be the best hope for survival for the library, which is chronically under-utilized and which most Jewish Angelenos don’t even know exists in its third-floor office suite. As funding from Federation continues to diminish and the cost of running the library rises, the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), which manages the library, says it will be unable to sustain the library for much longer.
      “There was no determination that a community library is not a worthy project or of value to the community, or even that AJU, in a vacuum, is the best solution. It’s just that, realistically, for the BJE the driving force is it cannot afford to continue to fund the library,” said Marc Rohatiner, president of the BJE.
      Some library loyalists contend the library has never been a priority for Federation or BJE. Further, they say that allowing an academic library to absorb the collection would undermine its goals as a community library because of AJU’s location, and because the new arrangement would separate families in their library experiences.
      “We are the second largest Jewish population in the United States, and it seems a shanda [embarrassment] for us not to have a Jewish community library,” said Sherril Kushner, an attorney and BJE’s library committee member.
      Talks about the move are still in early stages; so far two preliminary meetings and one negotiating session between BJE, AJU and Federation officials have occurred.  
     The library is the only open-access specialized Jewish collection in the city. While synagogues and universities have libraries, they are usually free for members only, and Jewish collections in public libraries are not nearly as complete or wide ranging. The library at the Simon Wiesenthal Center is open to the public, but specializes in material pertaining to the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and modern Israel.
      But the Jewish Community Library, founded by Federation in 1947 and located in its high-security office building, is not easily accessible, and its base of clients is currently only about 2,000 people per year.
      In the last 10 years, its profile has expanded under the leadership of director Abigail Yasgur, who implemented a full programming calendar and a mail service for those who can’t get to the library.
      But over the last few years, the library’s allocation from Federation has shrunk, and its rent subsidy, like those of other Federation agencies, is being phased out.
      BJE took on the library in 1990, under the condition that Federation would fully fund it so that BJE didn’t have to.
      The library’s budget for 2008-2009 is $296,000, but this year only $166,000 will come from Federation. In 2008, Friends of the Library raised about $85,000 to cover the gap, but as it has in past years, BJE has had to dip into library reserves to make up the remainder. And the reserves are running out, according to Gil Graff, BJE executive director.
      BJE itself is also getting less support from Federation for its 150 member schools, and in the coming fiscal year expects to have to double its current fundraising to about $1.2 million.
      In part, the library’s woes have been aggravated by Federation’s revamping of its funding mechanisms and its relationships with agencies, but even before those changes the library’s existence was being reassessed. In 2006 BJE set up a task force to determine the library’s future. The task force met in 2007 and 2008.
      “The only way that the library might be able to continue to exist seemed to be with a drastic reduction of services, and even that was problematic,” said task force chair Linda Goldenberg Mayman, a past president of BJE.
      Just as the committee was struggling to come up with recommendations, Robert Wexler, president of AJU, approached Federation about the library. Wexler declined to comment for this story because talks are in early stages.
      According to minutes from a March 2008 task force meeting, Wexler presented drawings for AJU’s library expansion plan, estimated to be completed in three years, which will take the current 9,000-square-foot space to a proposed 22,000 square feet. AJU has already raised $5 million of the $8 million required for the project, and with its two-year-old Festival of Jewish Books has placed itself at the center of Jewish literacy in Los Angeles.
      AJU’s library currently has about 115,000 volumes, not including a noncirculating library at the Brandeis-Bardin Campus, which the university acquired in 2007. Before and since that merger, AJU has been expanding its activities and trying to broaden its reach into the local Jewish community.
      “The task force was not entirely comfortable with AJU’s proposal, because they were afraid the community focus of the library would disappear,” Mayman said.
      Task force members were concerned about proper staffing — a community librarian and university librarian meet different needs — what might happen to duplicate volumes, the separation of the children’s library and, most significantly, diminished access for the public. While AJU is adjacent to the centers of Jewish population, the task force worried that its hilltop campus might not be a convenient stop for most people.
      Nevertheless, in June 2008, the task force — including library committee members who are now protesting the merger — recommended to the BJE that the library should begin discussions with AJU.
     The first meeting took place in late December, covering issues ranging from which volumes might be transferred, to potential severance packages for staff. When some library committee members heard about the talks, they circulated a letter of protest at not being included and at what they saw as a rush to finalize the merger.
      Jill Lasker, the committee’s chair, defended the process’ protocol, but said she understood why committee members felt out of the loop. She believes the merger could offer relief to the BJE and at the same time benefit the library, since AJU can provide more visibility and a client base the library doesn’t currently reach, particularly from AJU’s popular continuing education classes.
      “AJU offers us the possibility of something quite interesting, so to me this is looking like it could be a good option,” Lasker said.
      This is not the first time that the library’s future has been up in the air.
      In 1995 Federation convened a committee to explore abandoning the library, but hundreds of library supporters packed an open meeting to testify to the importance of the institution, thwarting the bid.
      In 2006, library leaders drafted a vision for a stand-alone facility, but BJE’s executive committee chose to convene the library task force rather than pursue that expensive option.
      “We’re not going to succeed where we are,” library director Yasgur said. “Place the library in a visible, accessible ground floor location in a high foot-traffic neighborhood and we could easily double or triple our clients.”
      Mayman offered up another possibility. She said she would like to see Federation fund the library for another few years, since AJU’s facilities won’t be ready before then anyway. During that time, she said, the library should be spun off as an independent entity and given a chance to fundraise and dream on its own — an admittedly difficult but perhaps doable task during these economic times.
      “I don’t think the library has ever had the opportunity to do that,” Mayman said. “If the library had that opportunity, we would see whether the community really was willing to support a Jewish community library.”
Serving a community of 600,000, The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles is the largest Jewish weekly outside New York City. Our award-winning paper reaches over 150,000 educated, involved and affluent readers each week.
© Copyright 2009 The Jewish Journal and

(#4)  Date: February 1, 2009 12:23:50 PM PST
Subject: Jewish Journal article

      We all know how important libraries are in our institutions and schools, for our children, in our lives.  Please be a library advocate now.  We need you to write a note to the Jewish Journal in response to the article above.  This is a serious matter of an attempt to remove "Community" from the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles. 
     Thank you!  

(#5) February 3, 2009 | 1:18 pm
Library lovers want to see book thrown at AJU takeover of Jewish Community Library

      Library people – librarians, readers, researchers—are passionate about libraries, as I found out while working on my story in last week’s Jewish Journal about the proposed merger (takeover?) of the Jewish Community Library and American Jewish University.
      I had an interesting conversation with Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie of Chabad of Orange County. He is one of those library lovers – he comes from OC to the JCLLA about once a week, just to see what’s new and interesting in the world of Jewish literacy. He fears that moving the library to AJU, which also houses a Conservative seminary, will mean that Orthodox people like himself won’t be comfortable going there. The current location in neutral ground is much better option, he said. He’s also troubled by some of the internal issues, such as how open the process is and who’s involved. His op-ed on the subject will appear in next week’s Jewish Journal.
      In my research, I found out some interesting overlaps between AJU, the Bureau of Jewish Education and Federation leaders involved in the library negotiations.
      David Nimmer, co-chair of the Education Pillar that will ultimately decide how much funding BJE and the Library get, is a former chair of the Library Committee. Virginia Maas, Nimmer’s co-chair of the Education Pillar, is an active and longtime supporter of the American Jewish University. Beryl Geber, a Federation VP who is involved in negotiations, was reportedly behind the first push to get rid of the library in 1995 and used to work for the University of Judaism (now AJU). Jill Lasker, current library committee chair, was the registrar at UJ for 18 years. Peter M. Kahn, for whom the Jewish Community Library was named, was a former president of UJ. Rick Burke, who was the librarian at UJ for years, was on the library task force. Peter Lowy, immediate past chairman of AJU, is on the Federation board and involved in the restructuring that is indirectly impacting the library’s future.
      None of that implies any wrongdoing or underhanded dealing. I truly (naively?) trust that everyone involved has the best interests of the community in mind. But the fact that this can almost feel like an internal, family conversation has got to have some impact.
      The process, as with most organizational dust ups, was also much talked about in my research, but I chose to cut it from my story, because most readers care more about the outcome than the process.
      At issue is whether library staff and lay leaders have been included in the decision making process. Here’s what I cut from the print edition of my story:
      The first meeting about the merger took place at the end of December, in which issues ranging from which volumes might be transferred to severance packages for staff were put on the table. Soon after the meeting, BJE leaders met with library staff and lay leaders to fill them in on the discussion.
      After that meeting, longtime members of the library committee circulated a letter among Federation and library supporters, expressing their distress at being excluded from negotiations and about what they see as a rush to seal this merger.
    “To say we are dismayed both at your process and outcome is an understatement,” wrote committee members Barbara Leff and Sherril Kushner, both of whom were on the task force. “Your actions have negated all of the work and dedication that the committee members put in to find a way to make more accessible this library’s wonderful resources.”
    But BJE executive director Gil Graff says that protocol has been followed.
    “The library committee has as its responsibility the operations of the library, what sort of programs it offers, the acquisition policies, the hours. But the fundamental question of whether the Bureau should or should not operate a library is a function of the Bureau’s board and its committee on planning and budget,” said Graff.
    In addition, Graff points out, the library task force that met in 2007 and 2008 had a specific mandate, which it fulfilled, and was never meant to be part of ongoing discussions.
---- Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer, Jewish Journal

(#6)  February 4, 2009 | 2:29 pm
Librarians worry about Jewish Community Library takeover

      The potential merger between the the Jewish Community Library at American Jewish University, which I reported on in last week’s Jewish Journal (click here for story), has many people worked up, chief among them a passionate network of librarians. While reporting the story, I interviewed several librarians who spoke with eloquence and conviction about the need to maintain an easily accessible, complete collection where entire families could enjoy the books, videos, music and archives. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to include most of those interviews in the printed story, due to space considerations.
One of the librarians I interviewed was Barbara Leff, a past president of the Southern California Branch of the Association of Jewish Libraries. She wrote to me after the story was published:
       My only disappointment is that you interviewed 3 of us (Suzi Dubin, Ellen Cole, and myself - library professionals in the community and Suzi as our national president of the Association of Jewish Libraries) - but you didn’t reference it. I was not looking for name inclusion but rather a simple statement that the national and local professional library communities were not in favor of the merger - so the community will know that JCLLA has our support.
      It’s a point well taken, and I learned a lot about libraries from talking to these women. Some of what I learned:
• Librarians get regular notices of new publications from which they order their books. Librarians at Jewish libraries get different and more specific catalogs, which is why their collection can be more complete than say a public library’s Jewish collection.
• The County Library system has cultural and ethnic collections at each branch. The Culver City Branch of the Los Angeles County Library houses the Jewish collection.
• Libraries are generally most successful when they are a convenient stop in a person’s daily agenda. Picking up a book, and especially returning books, has to fit in as stops on other errands. That is why some librarians fear that the AJU, on a hilltop campus off Mullholland, might not work for a community library, even though it is geographically a midpoint between Valley and City Jewish communities.
---- Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer, Jewish Journal

(#7)  Email - from Abigail Yasgur
Subject:  Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles News

Date:  February 9, 2009  11:55:21 AM PST
Friends & Colleagues:
     After 12 years of work with the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, a department of the Bureau of Jewish Education, I am resigning, effective Thursday, February 26, 2009.
     Please join me in the Library, on the first floor, Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3 PM for a brief farewell.  [location:  6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90048]
     I thank you all for working with me toward a greater Jewish Los Angeles by promoting Jewish literacy and life through books, movies, and music, programs and services that meet the needs of so many.
---- Abigail
Abigail Yasgur,
Library Director, Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles

(#8)  February 10, 2009 | 1:42 pm
AND print edition of Jewish Journal, vol.23, no. 52, p. 16, Feb. 13-19, 2009 issue.
Jewish Community Library Director Resigns Amid Merger Talks

      With a possible merger between the Jewish Community Library and the library at the American Jewish University on the horizon, Abigail Yasgur resigned from her post as director of the community library.
      Yasgur, who has held her position for 12 years, says she did not want to shepherd the library through a potential transition she feels will harm the institution and the community.
“I am disappointed in the direction,” said Yasgur. “What I would really like to see instead is people thinking about something bold and ambitious, that is concerned with the community and providing them with the resources they need.”
      The library, housed at headquarters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard, is currently operated by the Bureau of Jewish Education with funding from Federation. The collection has 30,000 volumes, including films, music recording, community archives and modern and ancient books in English, Hebrew and many other languages.
      But with Federation funding for the library dwindling and the Bureau facing its own budget crunch, professional and lay leaders have been exploring the possibility of moving the library to the American Jewish University on Mulholland in the Sepulveda Pass.  plans to expand its library facilities in the next three years and open the collection to the public. In the current negotiations between AJU, Federation and the Bureau, the children’s library would remain at its current location at 6505 Wilshire Blvd.
      A group of library supporters and lay leaders have created a committee and a website to explore spinning the library off into an independent non-profit that could occupy a street-level storefront, which they maintain can spike library visibility, patronage and community support.
      The president of the Association of Jewish Libraries and of its Southern California branch are advocating against the merger with AJU, which they say will undermine the library’s mission as an easily accessible, community institution.
      “Libraries like this need to be integrated into daily, community life, because books and literacy are a part of daily life. It can’t be so set apart that you have to travel 20 minutes on the freeway to get there,” Yasgur said.
    Under Yasgur’s leadership, the library established an online catalog and strong Web presence, increased programming, raised the library’s profile in the community, and grew the client base.
    Yasgur will bid farewell to the community at a tea Feb. 26, where she will reveal her top ten favorite books, and promote “Max Said Yes!“, her own children’s book on the 1969 Woodstock Festival, held on the farm of her cousin, Max Yasgur.
    “Being able to connect people with books or information that they are looking for, and seeing them glow or smile as a result, is remarkable work,” Yasgur said.
---- Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, senior writer, Jewish Journal

(#9)  February 11, 2009
LA Jewish Journal: Jewish library and American Jewish University discuss merger

By Jacob Berkman
      The LA Jewish Journal is reporting on its blog that the director of the Jewish Community Library has resigned among talks that the library could merge with the American Jewish University:
      With a possible merger between the Jewish Community Library and the library at the American Jewish University on the horizon, Abigail Yasgur resigned from her post as director of the community library.
      Yasgur, who has held her position for 12 years, says she did not want to shepherd the library through a potential transition she feels will harm the institution and the community.
      “I am disappointed in the direction,” said Yasgur. “What I would really like to see instead is people thinking about something bold and ambitious, that is concerned with the community and providing them with the resources they need.”
      The library, housed at headquarters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard, is currently operated by the Bureau of Jewish Education with funding from Federation. The collection has 30,000 volumes, including films, music recording, community archives and modern and ancient books in English, Hebrew and many other languages.
      But with Federation funding for the library dwindling and the Bureau facing its own budget crunch, professional and lay leaders have been exploring the possibility of moving the library to the American Jewish University on Mulholland in the Sepulveda Pass.  plans to expand its library facilities in the next three years and open the collection to the public. In the current negotiations between AJU, Federation and the Bureau, the children’s library would remain at its current location at 6505 Wilshire Blvd.
      We're going to be hearing more and more merger talks in coming months, I suspect....

(#10)  February 12, 2009

      Thanks to Julie Gruenbaum Fax for “Jewish Community Library May Merge, Move” (Jan. 30).  Both the Jewish Community Library itself and its possible dismantling have been underpublicized.
      The collection is easily navigated and brilliantly selected. Its books, DVDs and music offer a wide range of materials that people cannot find in synagogue libraries, the public library system or even the American Jewish University (AJU) library.
      Merging the adult community library with the AJU library is a poor solution. It will not serve the large population that lives close to The Federation building. It also sends the wrong message: Our kids need Jewish books and literary programs close by, but we don’t.
      Families would need to travel between two distant locations — one for children at The Federation building and another (once the AJU library is expanded) for adults in the always crowded Sepulveda Pass. Those who wish to explore the extensive academic collection at AJU can already do so.
      If more people knew about this gem of a community library, they would support it — and gain reasons and motivation to support the institutions that house and sustain it. I encourage everyone to visit the Jewish Community Library on the third floor at 6505 Wilshire Blvd., peruse the collection and meet the dedicated staff.
---- Rabbi Debra Orenstein, via e-mail

(#11)  February 12, 2009
AND print edition of Jewish Journal, vol.23, no. 52, p.5, February 13-19, 2009 issue.
by Susan Dubin, President, Association of Jewish Libraries  [international professional organization]

      We in the library community are deeply saddened by the decisions of The Federation and the Bureau of Jewish Education to end their support of the Jewish Community Library, necessitating the search for a possible merger with American Jewish University (AJU). Although AJU is a fine institution, its library is not a community library. As pointed out in your article, the missions of university libraries and community libraries are very different.
      Unfortunately, the Bureau and Federation failed to involve library professionals in their search for a solution, so very practical and important questions have not been addressed.
      Furthermore, the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles serves a critical need in Los Angeles, one of the larger Jewish communities in the world, for nondenominational, open and free access to Judaic books, irreplaceable archival materials, teaching aids and audiovisual materials.
      Although there are many Judaic libraries in Southern California, all are affiliated with an institution to which one must belong in order to borrow books, except the Jewish Community Library. Its resources serve the unaffiliated, as well as those who are underserved by their own institutions.
      Unfortunately, many schools and synagogues do not have adequately stocked or serviced libraries or, indeed, no libraries at all, and rely on the Jewish Community Library and its highly knowledgeable staff to meet their information needs.
      The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles has also become one of the premier Judaic libraries in the country and is known throughout the library world for its innovative programs and excellent service, thanks to the extraordinarily capable leadership of Abigail Yasgur, library director.
      Her vision for providing family programming and service to children and outreach to the community at large are a key factor in transmitting our Jewish heritage to a new generation. Many reliable studies have proven that library services are directly related to student achievement.
      Jewish sages wisely admonished our people not to live in a community without a library. The Association of Jewish Libraries, an international organization of more that 1,200 library professionals, the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California, and local librarians all recognize the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles as fulfilling a critical need in our community and wish to see it continue to function as the beacon of Jewish learning it has proven to be.
(#12)  Invitation to Abigail Yasgur Tea from Dr. Gil Graff, BJE Executive Director
TO:    BJE Board
FR:    Gil
RE:    “Tea” Reception, 2/26
      On Thursday, Feb. 26, 3:00 PM at the Slavin Library, the BJE will be hosting a tea, open to the public, expressing thanks to Abigail Yasgur for her service to the Jewish Community Library. Abigail has indicated that, on this occasion, she will disclose her top 10 favorite books!  Abigail joined the library staff in 1996 and, since 1997, has ably served as JCLLA Director. She will be concluding her tenure, Thursday.
      A note was earlier sent from the library “list;” this is by way of reminder, and to ensure that any BJE board member whose name may not have been on the library’s distribution roster will be in receipt of the invitation.
      Shabbat Shalom.
      February 19, 2009

(#13)  February 24, 2009
An Action Plan for A Jewish Library for All
presented to the Jewish Community Library Committee on February 25, 2009.

      For over 60 years the Jewish Community Library slowly built a remarkable collection of books, magazines, movies, music, journals, and archives. Today it is one of the more impressive Jewish library collections in the nation. This Library is administered by a professional staff of librarians. Its collection is promoted through over 70 programs each annual cycle. This growth has been nurtured by the commitment of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and the Bureau of Jewish Education.
      Even with its history of success, a new vision and action plan is needed to ensure that people continue to be served by the collection and its resources and that the patron base be expanded.
1.     The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles needs to evolve into an independent Jewish community agency.
2.     It is essential that the Library be in a central location and accessible to all. Libraries are places that people stop by “on their way.”  Visiting a library is an activity that is integrated into one’s daily life. A central location, such a storefront with heavy foot traffic, good parking and nearby public transportation, will dramatically increase the number of patrons and create new opportunities for support.
3.     It needs to be a meeting place where ideas are shared and people feel comfortable regardless of their Judaic affiliation or lack of affiliation. Therefore, it cannot be tied in to any single organization with a one ideological or philosophical point of view.
4.     All components of the library, the children’s as well as the adult collection, need to be housed under one roof for the convenience of its patrons (one-stop “shopping). All ages need to be welcomed in one location, making the library a vital community institution.
It’s time for the second largest Jewish community in the United States to have a state-of-the-art, visible and accessible library, independent of any other organization to assure its continuation. Here’s what needs to be done to achieve this:
1.     The library would move out of the Federation building and into a neutral facility that is visible and accessible to its users.
2.     A facility would be leased for up to 5 years to provide for the relocation of the library.
3.     A new nonprofit corporation would be formed to oversee the management of the library.
4.     Existing stakeholders, Federation and BJE representatives, community educators, librarians, patrons, supporters and rabbis would serve on the founding board of the nonprofit corporation.
5.     The board would launch an aggressive fundraising campaign to ensure the viability of the library in its new setting.
6.     The Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation and others would be solicited to assist the library in attaining institutional independence.
7.     The Jewish Federation would lend the collection to the new library. After the library has been operating for three years, the Federation would evaluate the new JCL. If the library is accomplishing certain benchmarks agreed upon in advance, then a plan would be made and executed to transfer ownership of the collection to the new corporation.
8.     Toward the end of a five-year period, the JCL would explore possibilities and funding for a new permanent location in the Los Angeles area.
9.     The JCL would explore the possibility of establishing branches in the San Fernando Valley and other locations such as the West Valley.
10.    In the future, consideration would also be given to creating partnerships with groups in Ventura and Orange Counties in creating Jewish community libraries.
In September 2006, after almost a year of deliberation, the Library Committee recommended a New Vision for the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles. This Action Plan would bring those ideas into reality.

February 24, 2009
Description of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles
presented as an Attachment to the Action Plan of the Jewish Community Library Committee on February 25, 2009 (preceding document).

       A core group of Library Committee members of the Jewish Community Library of L.A. (JCLLA), along with other concerned community leaders, have come together to SAVE THE LIBRARY! The intent is to create a nonprofit organization and begin fundraising in order to bring the 30,000 volumes of the Library, including books, music, movies, and archives to a free-standing, easily accessible storefront where parents with children, seniors, and others can use its many resources.
      The Library is a community asset. It belongs to and is patronized by those of us who comprise the second largest Jewish community in the United States.
      We must come together and assure its viability and accessibility to all Jews from all walks of lives, with all kinds of philosophies, and to non-Jews as well, without charge. Time is running out. Funds for staff salaries are running out and the Federation rent subsidy is being withdrawn as of January 1, 2010.
2,500 Classics to contemporary from the U.S., Israel and internationally
Classics, Hebrew, Carlebach, Matisyahu, Israeli Hip Hop on CD
Rare photographs and manuscripts featuring people, places and organizations of Jewish Los Angeles through the years
      Magazines, Journals and Newspapers
60 magazines, journals and newspapers
10,000 volumes of books, movies, music, encyclopedias for preschool through teens
25,000 volumes including education and pedagogics, Jewish law, sociology (anti-Semitism) art, drama, music books, reference, history, biography, Israel, Holocaust, literature, parenting, Rabbinics (including Bibles, Talmuds, Codes, Responsa, and other Rabbinics from esoteric to Modern), poetry, culinary, holidays, customs, religion, spirituality, folktales, politics, and Hebrew and Yiddish books
    City's only circulating set of the Schottenstein Talmud
    Unique Educational Aids
    * Israel Floor Map -- loaned to institutions and organizations to teach about Israel - 30x13 feet, inflatable, “walk on” map
    * Ethiopian Jew learning kit – museum-quality trunks for manipulatives that tell the tale of the journey of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
    * READ dog program –young children have appointments to read to therapy dogs, offering a non-judgmental, warm reading experience and promotes literacy
    * Library services are available onsite with experienced and knowledgeable staff, or via website at
    * Our website offers a kiosk with book lists, popular topics, podcasts, and homework help
    * The Inside Flap, an email newsletter keeping in touch with patrons, advising them of library acquisitions, programs and services
    * @ YOUR DOOR: free mail delivery of resources to your home for those who are homebound or too busy or too far from the Library to drop in.
    * Film in A Box: rental of a DVD accompanied by a study guide for use by families and study groups
    * Director offers book talk programs to organizations including Hadassah, Amit, various synagogues and senior living centers

    * 1 full-time professional librarian (Director)
    * 2 part-time professional librarians (reference/cataloging, programs) to serve families and children
    * 1 full-time executive secretary (cataloging, technical services)
All geared to meet the mission of promoting Jewish literacy and life.
    * Lectures on Jewish books, movies, music and archives in the collection presented on and off-site.
    * Author appearances (children’s and adults)
    *  Story times, crafts, puppetry for children (on and off-site) 
    * Concerts 
    * Cooking programs (on and off-site)
    * Movie screenings
    * Family programs (on and off-site)
Teachers, principals, students, librarians, families, researchers, rabbis, community leaders, chavurah leaders, non-affiliated with an institution, parents of intermarried children, immigrants, and individuals of all ages, all backgrounds, all religions.
            Copyright 2009
            All Rights Reserved
(#14)  February 25, 2009
by Larry Adler, Beverly Hills

      My family and I frequent the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles on a regular basis, as it is an irreplaceable resource for text and audio/visual materials (Community Library Director Resigns,” Feb. 13). While the current location in The Federation building is inconvenient due to security, we usually go about once a month. Additionally, we have been small but regular contributors to the library for the past decade.
      If the library is moved to the American Jewish University campus, it is highly unlikely we will ever visit it again, as the AJU is quite inaccessible. A community library is for the community to use, just as I use my public library. To move it out of the community it serves, to let its volumes collect dust, seems to violate the spirit and purpose of the library.
      I urge the Bureau of Jewish Education to consider community access when planning the library’s future, or my family and our community will never be able to use the library.

By Rabbi David Eliezrie

February 25, 2009
      Tucked away on the third floor of The Jewish Federation Building is a community treasure, unknown to many but without question a great asset. Getting there is difficult. You must go through security at The Federation Building and then have an escort up to the library. Visiting the library is tougher then getting into the CIA.
      Sadly, a plan is under way that instead of taking this great asset and helping it realize its true potential, will cause it to lose its identity and compromise its mission. The present idea to move the Jewish Community Library to the campus of American Jewish University (AJU), up in the hills between the city and the Valley, is a grave error. Years of effort to build a quality library will be lost as this becomes another component of AJU. It will be geographically remote and inaccessible to many.
      It’s not the only potential location for the library. There are two other libraries in the midst of Jewish Los Angeles: the Wiesenthal Center and Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad. Both have libraries that reflect their missions.
      The Wiesenthal has a great wealth of material on the Holocaust and the yeshiva a rich collection of classic rabbinical texts. The addition of the Community Library would be a big plus for either of them.
      All three of the these locations have a common inhibiting factor. They serve specific segments of the community. Just as students from religious homes will find it uncomfortable using a library at AJU, members of Temple Emanuel may have the same feeling about visiting the Wiesenthal Center or the yeshiva.
      The library needs to be an independent community institution, not reflecting any specific point of view or linked to one segment of the community. It needs to be a library for all.
      The Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) has nurtured the library and is to be lauded for its efforts. The BJE has a broad agenda, with crucial needs for schools, teacher training and other areas. The library has been low on its list of priorities.
      Transferring the library to AJU is an easy way out for the BJE. Doing so is an abdication of the BJE’s responsibility to provide Jewish educational resources for the whole community.
      It’s time for the BJE, in conjunction with The Federation, to act with communal responsibility. The library has the potential to be a great resource for all. To make that possible, several important steps need to be taken.
      First, it’s time to the let the child grow up. The Jewish Community Library needs to become an independent community agency. The BJE, in partnership with The Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation, should ensure that success of this agency.
      Funding needs to be secured for the first steps toward independence. The Federation needs to help in enlisting leadership to guide the library’s growth and direction.
      The library needs its own location in Los Angeles.
      For the first few years the library should apply the rent subsidy given to it by The Federation, together with grants from the foundation and private individuals, to leasing a facility. A strong board must be built to guide the library during its transitional period of development. The existing stakeholders, including the BJE, Federation, library clientele and community educators, should be part of this new board.
      The board should set a goal that within five years, the library will purchase its own facility in Los Angeles. The board should develop new sources of income and broaden the donor base for the future. Some of this will come from the expanded base of library users and from the community at large.
      Omaha, Neb., with 5,000 Jews, has its own Jewish library. Los Angeles, with over half a million Jews, can achieve the same goal.
      It takes leadership, vision and some imagination. It’s easy to move the 30,000 books up the hill to AJU. Of course we will hear assurances that all will be welcome. And I am sure that they will make every effort to do so.
      But let’s get real. The average citizen does not make the trip to UCLA or USC to get a book for their kid or themselves. That is why we have a network of public libraries.
      Books are essential for the transmission of ideas. The library is a great resource for all of the community. It should remain a unique communal asset for all.
      By seizing control of its destiny, a new established library will have the opportunity to grow and dream of new ways to serve the community. With some creativity, commitment and vision, the present library will evolve into a great asset for all.
---- Rabbi David Eliezrie is president of the Rabbinical Council of Orange County. He regularly uses the library. He can be contacted at .

(#16)  Jewish Community Library May Shelve Books Elsewhere -- Photo Essay by Francine Orr.  Los Angeles Times.  March 12, 2009.    
4 photos with captions.

(#17)  Los Angeles Times California | Local
Jewish Community Library May Be Bound for New Location

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles considers moving its adult collection to a university in Bel-Air, a site the group says would better serve the region's Jewish population.
By Martha Groves
March 13, 2009
      Bina Weiss and her eight children have borrowed hundreds of books and videos from the Jewish Community Library, a little-known gem housed in the Wilshire Boulevard headquarters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
      "This is what my kids will read in a week," said Weiss, 44, balancing a teetering stack of 25 books. "Whenever I need a book, this is the place I come."   News that much of the library's collection could relocate to the campus of the American Jewish University on Mulholland Drive in Bel-Air -- a 13.5-mile schlep over streets and freeway -- elicited a Yiddish expression of dismay.
      "Oy!" Weiss said. "That means nobody will be able to go." 
     The federation begs to differ. Its research shows that most of the region's Jewish population long ago shifted to areas such as the San Fernando Valley, Conejo Valley and Simi Valley. For those patrons, federation officials figured, the Mulholland location would be more convenient than an office building on the busy Wilshire corridor near Beverly Hills.
      "We believe the needs of the broader Los Angeles-area Jewish community are best served by relocating," said John Fishel, president of the nonprofit Jewish federation. "The idea is not just to shuffle it out of this building but to put it in a place that's accessible, where it could become more robust."
      The federation and the university said talks about the relocation were continuing.
      Fishel emphasized that the federation would relocate only the library's adult collection, now housed on the building's third floor. (Patrons must be escorted there from the lobby.)
      The Slavin Children's Library would remain in its current spot on the first floor, across the lobby from the Zimmer Children's Museum.
      Weiss, for one, said that was a small consolation, given that her teenage sons usually frequent the adult library while she stays with her young daughters downstairs.
      The library's collection consists of about 30,000 items, written or created by Jewish authors and artists for a Jewish audience. It includes centuries-old books about Jewish law and values; Holocaust literature; kosher cookbooks; an inflatable 30-by-13-foot map of Israel; Jewish plays and music; and archival material about Jewish people, places and organizations. Many books are in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian.
      The collection is mostly G-rated -- the "Funny Girl" DVD is about as racy as it gets.
      Abigail Yasgur describes the relocation plan as a "historic misstep." Yasgur, a librarian who directed the Jewish Community Library for 12 years, resigned recently in protest.
      "The library needs to be on the way -- from school to home, from work to the market -- so that it can be integrated into people's daily lives," she said. "It doesn't make sense to have it become a destination." And that, she said, is what it would become if it moved to Mulholland.
      Robert Wexler, president of the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism), said his institution's chief interest is to get "more people to be engaged with the Jewish book." The university has a large Jewish adult education program that serves 13,000 participants each year -- a ready-made audience for the federation's collection, Wexler said.
      The university is raising money to more than double the size of its existing Ostrow Library, to more than 20,000 square feet. The expansion would absorb the federation's resources. Plans call for creating a reading garden and outdoor areas where patrons can sit and talk.
      Wexler said it wasn't yet clear how much of the collection would be moved to the university, because the school might already have some of the same books in its own collection.
      "Obviously, duplicates won't" be moved, he said.
      Fishel said the federation and the university were discussing how the collection would be maintained if moved. "It is clear to us that the AJU . . . is expecting us to continue funding," he said. "So it would be ours as well."   

     Still, the prospect worries Susan Dubin, president of the Assn. of Jewish Libraries, an international organization representing about 1,100 libraries.
      "The mission of a community library is very different from a university library," she said. "By combining the collections, we're going to lose that community aspect."
copyright Los Angeles Times

(#18)  The Jewish Journal
L.A.’s Jewish Community Library Likely to Move

By Julie Gruenbaum Fax
March 15, 2009
      A coalition of Jewish Community Library supporters say leaders at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles have spurned their efforts to create an independent library and to stop a proposed merger with the American Jewish University.
      Since March 2008, leaders of Federation, which funds the library through the Bureau of Jewish Education, and AJU have been exploring a merger of the 30,000-volume collection at the Jewish Community Library with AJU’s 115,000-volume library at the Mulholland Drive campus. AJU plans to expand its library facilities in the next few years and to open the library up to the community.
      BJE leaders say the merger is the only way to keep the collection public, since Federation has been steadily reducing its funding for the library, which draws about 2,000 patrons a year to its third floor suite in Federation headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard.
      BJE will not request funding to run the library for the 2010 fiscal year, BJE executive director Gil Graff told The Journal.
      But library supporters say AJU shouldn’t be the collection’s only option. They have formulated a plan that would set the library on an independent course, to open a freestanding, centrally located facility, possibly with satellite facilities, that would increase community access to the library. They are not asking for funding from Federation – just to entrust it with the collection.
      The supporters say a merger with AJU would sacrifice the library’s identity as a community resource.
      “I just don’t think an academic library that sits on top of a hill, over a freeway, which you can’t even see from the street, which few people ever go to is the place to put a community library,” said Sherrill Kushner, an attorney who is heading up Save the Jewish Library, which also includes Orange County’s Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie.
      But Federation officials say this plan is just another version of a 2006 plan that was already analyzed and rejected by a BJE task force set up to determine the library’s future. In 2008, that task force recommended pursuing the possibility of a merger with AJU. Those talks have been under way since June 2008.
      Issues on the table include what to do with duplicate volumes, which could be placed in other libraries or institutions where the community could have access to them, Graff said. Still unclear is what would happen to the Slavin children’s library. Graff says BJE will not be asking for funding for that entity in 2010, either.
Eliezrie and Kushner say Federation leaders seem sold on the AJU plan, and they have had a hard time getting anyone to discuss their approach. While Federation vice president Beryl Geber said she is planning to meet with Eliezrie, Eliezrie said 10 days worth of emails to Geber, Graff and Federation President John Fishel have not yielded indication that a meeting will take place.
      “The library should be an independent oasis for everyone,” said Eliezrie, who as Chabad’s liaison to United Jewish Communities is well seasoned in working with Federation. “I’ve been shocked that they won’t even talk about it. Let everyone meet and argue and hear what we have to say.”
      Graff expressed pessimism about the ability of the grassroots effort would be able to take on the responsibility for the community collection with no facility, supporters or infrastructure to manage a library in place.
      “It’s not clear to me that this is something as attractive as an entity with a history of 60 years and a campus,” he said, referring to AJU.
      Kushner counters that it is difficult to fundraise without any indication that they could have access to the collection. The BJE and Federation will jointly decide whether the AJU merger will go through, and then the Federation’s Education Pillar will decide whether the new entity would get funding, and how much. Under a new structure put into place in Federation last year, Federation agencies do not get any entitlements and any non-profit can apply for funding – including AJU or an independent library.
      The idea that AJU could get funding for absorbing the community collection is appalling to Abigail Yasgur, who resigned from her position as Jewish Community Library director in protest to the merger.
      “Giving the library to the AJU serves only the interests of the AJU and the Federation, but not the interests of the people.  The arrangement serves the AJU by enlarging its collection. (While the specifics of the Federation-AJU arrangement remain unknown, should the Federation also decide to give funds to the AJU to take the Library, that would be scandalous,)” she wrote in an editorial submitted to the Jewish Journal. “The arrangement serves the Jewish Federation by lowering or eliminating the cost of running the library, which it has borne in major part.  But the losers in this deal, which has not been subjected to public scrutiny, are you and me and everyone else who seeks a Library that serves the people.”
      Geber disagrees. She says the merger will give more people more access.
      “What we are talking about is not the disappearance, but the expansion of the Jewish Community Library, and its relocation,” Geber said. “It means an expansion in the possible number of hours it is open, in the number of volumes, in the space it will have. These are all things it can’t do here.” 
© Copyright 2009 The Jewish Journal and

(#19)  "SAVE THE LIBRARY!" by Abigail Yasgur, former JCLLA Director, -- an op-ed article submitted to the Jewish Journal.

Abigail Yasgur

      The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is about to make a terrible mistake.  It is about to destroy one of Los Angeles’ true jewels:  The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles (JCLLA).  It is not too late to reverse this historic misstep – but only if community members speak up loudly and clearly on the issue.
      The Jewish Federation is coming close to striking a deal that gives the Library away to the American Jewish University (AJU).  This ill-conceived plan amounts to a give-away of community resources that are held in trust by the Federation.  As a practical matter, the AJU will simply absorb the Library. While the AJU has said that it will somehow run the Library as a "community library," this is unworkable because the  AJU is far from the Library’s patrons and potential patrons, whether they are north on the 405 or within the three-mile radius of 6505 Wilshire Blvd.  The AJU is located on a hill near Mulholland Drive, not easily accessible by public transportation. While proponents of this deal have claimed that the AJU is more convenient for those in the Valley and the City, the truth is it is equally inconvenient for all. To the extent that much of the Library collection duplicates the AJU collection, AJU may decide to deposit the community collection at its Brandeis-Bardin campus in Simi Valley, an even less accessible location. The AJU is a fine institution and a fine destination for classes and lectures. It possesses the Ostrow Library, an academic library, but it is no place for a community Library.
      I was the director of the Library for twelve years and was proud of its philosophy, resources, customer services, and dynamic events.  But I resigned last month because I am opposed to this give-away and effective dissolution of the Library.  Moving the Library to the AJU would be inconsistent with the Library's nature and purpose.  In order to serve the communities, the Library needs to function as a stand-alone facility located in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood.
      The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles is a unique and important institution.  No other institution offers free access to thousands of resources including books, movies and music. The Library is a source of rich cultural and community connections.  The Library is a treasure trove of books, movies, music and archives staffed by highly trained professionals who provide excellent service and who promote Jewish literacy. It is one of the nation’s largest free Jewish libraries with over 30,000 volumes of Jewish-content material for children, families and adults.  It has served the public for over sixty years.  The Library has been housed in the Federation Building on Wilshire Boulevard, which is not the most visible, accessible or appealing location, but still has managed to circulate between 250 and 300 items each day.
      The Library must be on people's way: Home from school, to the market, from work.  Patrons thrive when they can stop by or run into a library. And the Library is successful when it is integrated into the daily activity and routine of its patrons. A community's intellectual life thrives when people are able to take advantage of the resources and  spectrum of ideas the JCLLA offers..
      Libraries are not destinations; they are part of neighborhood life. Current Library patrons uniformly react with dismay when informed of the potential move.  They make clear that they will not be able to use the Library if it is at the AJU.  It is not a realistic alternative in the context of their life.  As a practical matter, the move to the AJU will be the end of the Library as an institution that actually reaches and serves the community.   
      Now, instead of moving the Library to a more accessible location, the Federation is essentially moving it out of existence. It is dumping and unloading it.
      Because of the AJU’s location outside of the residential communities, it will be the rare patron that travels to the Library at the AJU – a point driven home by the op-ed of Library patron and community leader Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie (Jewish Journal, February 25, 2009).  JCLLA patrons include all parts society, including those families and individuals who cannot spend money on the purchase of books, movies and music. They include families who stop by every week to stock up on books for the weekend. They include patrons who bring the kids in for a pre-bedtime story time.  The Library serves the needs of its users. Institutional and bureaucratic expediency should not be the determining factor.
      Giving the Library to the AJU serves only the interests of the AJU and the Federation but not the interests of the people.   The arrangement serves the AJU by enlarging its collection. (While the specifics of the Federation-AJU arrangement remain unknown, should the Federation also decide to give funds to the AJU to take the Library, that would be scandalous.)  The arrangement serves the Jewish Federation by lowering or eliminating the cost of running the Library, which it has borne in major part.  But the losers in this deal, which has not been subjected to public scrutiny, are you and me and everyone else who seeks a Library that serves the people.  
       There is an alternative.   A movement is afoot to save the Library and establish it as a stand-alone central facility in a Jewish neighborhood.  This will allow people to enjoy the Library’s rich benefits.  Because the Library is neutral and cross deniminational territory, it will provide a meeting place for all segments of the Jewish community, where they can participate in Jewish learning, culture and events.  This plan will follow guidelines of access that reflect the intent, nature and character of community libraries.  Importantly, it will also solve any financial issues for the Federation, as the plan involves incorporating the Library as a separate 501(c)(3) corporation and functioning as its own institution with its own bold plan of operation and development.
      But time is running out.  Unless people speak up, the Federation will spin off the library collection to the AJU and it will be gone forever.  If you agree that this is a serious error, let the Jewish Federation know your thoughts by writing a letter to the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles 6505 Wilshire Blvd. #300, Los Angeles, CA 90048, OR an email to   Also, log on to to find out how you can help.
      Our large, diverse Jewish community of Los Angeles is great. It has also been devastated by a recent economic crisis. Morale has taken a hit and now is the time for a true civic “shot in the arm,” a great, ambitious, newly imagined Jewish Community Library for Los Angeles. At this critical time, it would be a mistake of historic proportions to allow the Jewish Federation to dump the Library.

The Jewish Daily Forward
Plans To Move L.A. Community Library

By Rebecca Spence
Published March 25, 2009, issue of April 03, 2009.
      Los Angeles — For the past seven years, Larry Adler has made a habit of borrowing books and videos from the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles. He signs out Jewish cookbooks to feed his love of the culinary arts, religious books to enhance his knowledge of Jewish texts and children’s books to help teach his 11-year-old daughter about Judaism.
      Now, Adler, a 46-year-old physician, is upset because the community library that is housed at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles building, on Wilshire Boulevard, may be merging with the library at the American Jewish University’s Familian Campus, set high atop Mulholland Drive in Bel Air. For Adler, a Beverly Hills resident, moving the library 14 miles away is simply too far.
      “I’m very upset because I’ll never go to AJU,” Adler said. “The library will be gone.”
      Plans to merge L.A.’s Jewish Community Library — one of the country’s largest free Jewish libraries — with AJU’s library this summer are moving forward, despite months of protests from longtime patrons and some library leaders. The library’s director of 12 years, Abigail Yasgur, resigned in February in protest. Yasgur and others who oppose the merger contend that moving the library to AJU will make it inaccessible and unable to perform its function as a community library as opposed to an academic one.
      But according to federation and AJU officials, the Familian campus — situated between the heavily Jewish areas of West L.A. and the San Fernando Valley — is more accessible to a higher percentage of Jewish Angelenos. “We have a Jewish community of 550,000 people, and an estimated 50% live north of Mulholland, so we think this is a much more central location,” said John Fishel, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
      The president of AJU, Robert Wexler, noted in an e-mail that according to a 1997 demographic study, more than 70% of L.A.’s Jewish community now lives closer to AJU than to the federation building. Wexler also said that AJU plans to expand its current library and half of the necessary funds — $4 million — has been raised. The new facility, he added, will be used as a community library in addition to serving campus needs.
      Under the proposal, only the adult collection would be moved to AJU, while the children’s collection would remain at the federation, where the Zimmer Children’s Museum is also housed.
     L.A.’s Jewish community library was founded in 1947 and boasts a collection of 30,000 volumes and 2,500 Jewish films. Since 1990, it has been a division of the Bureau of Jewish Education. The bulk of the library’s funding has come from federation allocations and charitable donations. In recent years, the federation allocation has declined. In 2007, the allocation, including rent subsidization, was roughly $200,000. The following year, that figure dropped by $10,000.
      The ongoing battle over L.A.’s Jewish community library comes at a time when Jewish organizations across the country are tightening their belts. While the plan was proposed before the current economic meltdown, and the BJE determined in 2008 that it no longer wanted to be responsible for the library, the situation in L.A. nonetheless opens a window onto the Jewish community’s attempts to set priorities when resources are increasingly scarce. And a community library is not high on the priority list — at least not in the eyes of one big-city federation executive.
      “I would hope that since the implementation is taking place at a time when we do have problems, the decision will allow us to focus on community matters we think are of a higher rank,” Fishel said.
     That attitude is vexing to Yasgur, who views the community library as indispensable. “They don’t think about how Jewish libraries fit into the Jewish educational movement,” Yasgur said. “Libraries are not cultural dinosaurs; they are living and organic, and things circulate in and out of there at a robust pace.”
      Indeed, according to Yasgur, the library circulates more than 250 items on a daily basis and has a client base of between 1,000 and 1,500 patrons.
      In response to the proposed merger, a group spearheaded by library committee member Sherrill Kushner, has called for construction of a freestanding, state-of-the-art community library. But so far, that idea has gained little traction with federation officials.
      The AJU plan, Fishel said, is a “fait accompli.”

(#21)  Letter to JCLLA Committee Members
from Chair Jill Lasker
Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles

6505 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 300  Los Angeles, California 90048
Phone  (323) 761-8605   Fax (323) 761-8640 
June 23, 2009
      I am writing to you because we have an agreement between the Jewish Federation
Council, Bureau of Jewish Education and American Jewish University regarding our
Jewish Community Library.  Since the agreement was solidified this week, I could not
communicate the details to you before now and a press release which I am including will
go out at the end of this week.   First of all, I would like to thank you all for your passion,
hard work and commitment to maintaining a quality library for all the years it has been
housed at the BJE.  I also appreciate the passion with which its future was discussed and
the difficulty we faced in serving such a geographically diverse community.  I hope the
library will be frequented often in its new home by its current patrons as well as new
patrons who previously found its location inconvenient or inaccessible.  In addition to the
information included in the press release, I would like you to know the following:
1.  The BJE will keep the books it wants.
2.  The archival material currently housed in the library will go to the AJU.
3.  The name Peter M. Kahn will be recognized at the currrent site and at any future site.
4.  The AJU will recognize JFC and the BJE for their role in originating and maintaining the library.
5.  This will be a community library meaning there will be no change for the use or
borrowing of material, patrons will be assisted in finding material and reasonable mail
service for shippng to those unable to come to the library will be provided.
6.  Services to the community will be provided which may include events and
programming such as book discussion groups, book fairs and family literary events.  The
library will also include children's literature, some of which are books from the JCLLA
collection will be part of the transition.
7.  Rick Burke will most likely consult with the AJU to facilitate this transition.
      I would like to thank Dr. Gil Graff and Chuck Hurewitz for their hard work in
representing the interest of maximizing community library services in the negotiations
leading to this transition. 
     16 June 2009
      The Jewish Community Library (JCL), founded in 1947 and currently located in the Miracle Mile District at the Goldsmith Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, will be moving this summer to its new home at the American Jewish University (AJU) as part of the Bel and Jack Ostrow Library.  This planned relocation to AJU on Mulholland Drive will allow the community library to serve a much larger number of Los Angeles' more than 550,000 Jewish residents, owing to its geographic accessibility to large centers of the Jewish population.
     Some of the JCL's 30,000 volume collections will be integrated into the Ostrow Library's existing collection of more than 125,000 volumes.  AJU has already announced plans to expand it 9,000 square foot Ostrow library facility to more than double its current size.
     The JCL has been ably administered in the past 20 years by the Bureau of Jewish Education, a constituent of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation. During that time, the community library has received a regular annual allocation from the Federation in partial support of its activities.  The Federation has committed to assist with the cost of relocating the community library and will also provide AJU with operating funding for a three-year period.  The merged collection will be available to the public, free of charge, beginning September 1, 2009.

(#22), published July 2, 2009
Community Library Moving to AJU

By Julie Gruenbaum Fax
      The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles is moving out of its decades-long home at The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard and being absorbed by the library at the American Jewish University (AJU) on Mulholland Drive. The merged library is scheduled to open at AJU Sept. 1 and will be free to the public.
      AJU and Federation officials, who over the last year brokered the deal, believe the new arrangement will make the library more accessible to large Jewish population centers on the Westside and the Valley, in addition to the thousands of people who attend AJU events.
      “I think this will be a real boon for the community, and I look forward to seeing the books on the stacks and available to all, and having people really enjoy them,” said Beryl Geber, Federation’s associate executive vice president for policy, who was involved in the negotiations.
      Fewer than 2,000 people a year had been using the Jewish Community Library, which had strong programming and a solid collection but was hampered by its location on the third floor of the high-security Federation office building. Over the past several years, Federation drastically reduced funding to the library, which it founded in 1947.
      AJU plans to more than double the size of its Bel and Jack Ostrow Library in the next few years, and will expand existing book discussion groups and the annual Celebration of Jewish Books.
      A vocal group of library professionals and devoted Jewish Community Library clientele began protesting the merger when news first leaked in January, but as talks moved forward, no competing alternative was presented to Federation.
      “We just didn’t get that far,” said Sherrill Kushner, an attorney who helped organize the opposition, gathering 150 signatures to present to Federation leaders.
      Critics of the relocation worry that AJU is not accessible by public transportation and is not a convenient stop but a destination, up on a hill off the 405 Freeway at Mullholland Drive.
      Abigail Yasgur, who served as the librarian for 10 years, resigned in February in protest to what she called the Federation’s “dumping and unloading” of the library.
      Details of the relocation were hammered out in a three-way deal reached between AJU, Federation and the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), which has overseen library operations since 1990.
      Federation, through its education pillar — one of five different issue areas the agency allocates money toward — will continue to provide the merged library $76,000 each year for the next three years (to be reviewed annually).
      The Bureau of Jewish Education will get first crack at the Jewish Community Library’s 30,000 volumes, taking from it the books and resources its staff needs for an internal, non-circulating library.
      Over the summer, AJU librarians and a consultant will cull the collection, determining which books and films to add to AJU’s 125,000-volume collection. AJU President Robert Wexler says it will keep duplicates of popular books for circulation. Decades worth of community archives also will move to AJU. The library will continue a mail service for those who can’t get to the facility.
      AJU has not yet determined if it will need to hire a community librarian.
      The children’s collection, housed at the Slavin Children’s Library on the ground floor at 6505 Wilshire Boulevard, was not part of the AJU negotiations and will remain in the building, according to Federation President John Fishel, who said Federation will continue to fund the Children’s library.
      But as of 2010, BJE will no longer operate the children’s library — and who will has not yet been determined.    
     “The children’s collection will stay here. We will have to decide if it will be a freestanding entity, or possibly tied to another organization in the building,” possibly the Zimmer Children’s Museum, Fishel said.
      Over the past several years, Federation has been decreasing funding allocated to BJE to spend on the library. Federation provided $166,000 of the library’s nearly $300,000 budget in 2008-2009, with the remainder coming from fundraising and almost depleted reserves. In 2007, a BJE task force undertook a study to determine the future of the library.
      Just as the task force was struggling to come up with recommendations, AJU’s Wexler approached Federation.
      The university already was planning to open its collection to the community at a facility set to be built in the next three years — a 20,000-square-foot library with a computer lab, reading room, rare books room and space for author talks, in addition to stacks and display areas. A reading garden adjacent to the library is already under construction, and AJU will launch a campaign for the new library in the fall.
      The merger with the Jewish Community Library allows AJU to bring home the notion that it is more than a university, Wexler said.
      “This is a way of reinforcing the message to the community that we are an institution of community education, beyond what we do in terms of educating professionals,” Wexler said.
      Jill Lasker, who chaired the BJE’s library committee, believes the merged entities will serve the community well.
      “Even though this process has not always been smooth, and people have been very passionate in expressing their opinions on the pro and con of this move, I’d like to think that we are in fact one big community, and that this ultimately is in the best interest of the community,” Lasker said.