Library Services


Jewish Collections

Printed, manuscript and archival collections of Hebraica and Judaica which are of national and international importance.

Browse the collections

Collection descriptions

Rabbi Dr Moses Gaster Papers

Moses Gaster (1856-1939) was a Jewish communal leader, prominent Zionist and prolific scholar of Rumanian literature, folklore, and Samaritan history and literature, as well as Jewish subjects. Born in Bucharest, he was expelled from Romania in 1885 because of his political activities. He settled in Britain and was appointed Haham (spiritual head) of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community, and later also Principal of the Judith Lady Montefiore College in Ramsgate. He was a founder and president of the English Zionist Federation, and played an important role in the talks resulting in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

His personal papers, consisting of some 170,000 items, were given to UCL in 1974. Among them is a large collection of ‘ephemera’, dating from the 1880s to 1930s, including invitations, menus, visiting cards, greetings cards, and programmes. They shed a fascinating light on Gaster’s social and communal activities and on Anglo-Jewish life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They will also be of interest to those researching their family history. Many of the individuals and families mentioned also corresponded with Gaster and these letters are also held at UCL Special Collections. In addition to the ephemera, to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, we have digitised items from the Gaster Papers that detail his role in this milestone in the history of Zionism

Please refer to our Special Collections web pages for information about how to access material from the Gaster Papers and read more about Gaster here.


Jewish Pamphlets Collection

UCL Library Services holds printed, manuscript and archival collections of Hebraica and Judaica which are of national and international importance, including several significant pamphlet collections.

These collections formed part of the Mocatta Library, which was jointly founded by UCL and the Jewish Historical Society of England in 1906, after the philanthropist and bibliophile Frederic David Mocatta left his vast library to the Society. Mocatta's collection was enriched by other donations and purchases in the early 20th century, becoming one of the finest and most comprehensive Jewish Studies libraries in the United Kingdom. Tragically, the library was destroyed by bombing in 1940; only the rarest books, pamphlets and manuscripts survived, having been moved to Wales for safekeeping.

However, the library was quickly re-constituted through donations from many individuals and organisations, including the Jewish collections of the Guildhall Library, and the extensive libraries of the journalist Asher Myers and the American scholar Cyrus Adler. It continued to be enlarged after the war; notable additions to the pamphlet collection came from the libraries of the historian Albert Hyamson and the Canadian rabbi Aaron David Meldola de Sola. The Mocatta Library was merged with UCL's other Jewish collections in 1990.

The pamphlet collections cover a wide range of subjects throughout the field of Jewish Studies, particularly Anglo-Jewish history, Zionism and liturgy. The pamphlets date from 1601 onwards, and are in English, Hebrew and a number of other languages. Many of them are held in very few libraries, while some are extremely rare.

In 2016 UCL Library Services embarked on a project to digitise a selection of the most significant Jewish pamphlets in the collection, principally from the Mocatta and De Sola collections. The pamphlets are searchable in both Hebrew and English.


Sir Moses Montefiore Testimonials

Moses Montefiore (1784-1885) was among the most famous Jews of the 19th century. He served as president of the British Board of Deputies (1835-1874). Queen Victoria appointed him Sheriff of the City of London and bestowed a knighthood on him in 1837, followed later by a baronetcy. He impressed Jews and non-Jews alike by combining a high standing in society with strict religious observance and a lifelong commitment to the Holy Land. On numerous occasions, he intervened on behalf of coreligionists. 

Together with the French Jewish leader Adolphe Crémieux (1796-1880) Montefiore obtained the release of Jews in Damascus accused of ritual murder in 1840 through a visit to the Ottoman Governor of Egypt. This and other achievements captured the imagination of Jews everywhere and large numbers of tributes were sent to him from around the whole world, the largest number reaching him on his 100th birthday in 1884.

Documented here is a collection of some three hundred and fifty such tributes, owned by the Montefiore Endowment in London and presently on loan to UCL Special Collections. They address his love of Zion, his commitment to religious observance and to the progress of humankind. His wife Judith Lady Montefiore (d. 1862) is often mentioned.

The collection contains beautifully calligraphed and decorated items and is a truly unique mirror of the multi-faceted Jewish civilization in the 19th century. Mostly written in Hebrew, English, Italian and German, the tributes testify to the admiration of many contemporaries for Sir Moses. The items feature thousands of signatures of ordinary members of now defunct Jewish communities, congregations, associations and institutions, but also of religious and political leaders, and thus are an invaluable resource for researchers.

This online exhibition contains transcriptions of all items in their original languages and scripts, and are fully searchable in Latin and Hebrew script. The documents were transcribed from their original languages and scripts into text files by student volunteers of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCL. The transcriptions are not an academic edition or annotated, but should provide valuable orientation when using the collection.