The centre housing the largest collection of Jewish history in the world outside Israel had a major financial boost this week as the UK’s fourth wealthiest man Sir Leonard Blavatnik donated $1 million.
The Blavatnik Family Foundation awarded the seven-figure sum to the Center for Jewish History for the preservation, digitisation and archival processing of collections held by the Center’s five in-house partners.
These include the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, the Yeshiva University Museum and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
Together, they comprise more than five miles of archival documents in dozens of languages and alphabetical systems, 500,000 volumes of books, seven million digital items, and thousands of artworks, objects, textiles, and recordings.
Scholars have accessed them for their studies of early modern Rabbinic courts, the legacy of blood libel within the Soviet Union, the impact of Jewish philosophy of Kabbalah in the founding of the US, and Yiddish prose works by women writers.
Born in Odessa, Blavatnik made his fortune working with fellow Jewish businessmen Mikhail Fridman and Viktor Vekselberg after the fall of communism, in areas such as oil, entertainment, coal, aluminium, plastics, telecoms, media, and real estate.
Knighted in 2017, he owns a £200 million building in Kensington, counts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu among his friends, and has donated millions of pounds to figures associated with Donald Trump’s Republican administration.
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