Introduction to the Reading Room

The Center for Jewish History welcomes researchers, scholars and visitors of all backgrounds.

  • We are committed to providing a safe, welcoming environment and the broadest possible access to information.
  • We are committed to maintaining the privacy of all researchers and readers.
  • We do not tolerate disruptive behavior, harassment, or discriminatory action or language.
  • We are open to all and open to all points of view in an atmosphere of professionalism and fostering social responsibility.
  • In accordance with New York law, federal law and our own policies, we do not limit equal access regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, age, or disability.
  • We strive to reflect our community by supporting diversity of people, ideas and expression.

The Lillian Goldman Reading Room, often described as the heart of the Center, is the gateway for exploring the diverse history of the Jewish people through the collections housed at the Center for Jewish History. It was designed to provide modern convenience in a dignified, traditional ambience. The open-stack collection has reference texts and general information, as well as all major publications of the Center partners.

In addition, the Reading Room has developed an extensive electronic resource library that is available through public computer terminals. Archive and library collections consist of 500,000 volumes in multiple languages (e.g., Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, German, Polish, French) from many time periods, as well as over 100 million documents, including organizational records and personal papers, photographs, multimedia recordings, posters, art and artifacts. Professional staff is on hand six days per week to provide access to these collections and assist researchers with their work.

Fellowship programs and graduate seminars developed by the Center with the guidance of its distinguished 15-member Academic Advisory Council attract promising doctoral students in Jewish Studies. High school students come in groups to learn the rudiments of serious research. Parents bring their children to study together the fragments and memories of prior generations.

The Reading Room's open-stack collection has basic texts and general information, as well as major publications of the Center partners. In addition, the Reading Room has developed and maintains an electronic resource library that is available through the public computer terminals. Electronic bibliographies compiled by the Center for its patrons are also available on the terminals. For patrons using microfilm or microfiche the Center offers access to Scan Pro 2000 digital microfilm readers that enable patrons to save images as JPGs, PDFs and other image file formats as well as allowing for printing.

Professional staff is on hand to help researchers access the library collections (rare books and volumes covering diverse periods and languages) and the archives (millions of documents, papers, posters, photographs, media and ritual objects), which are now under the same roof for the first time. Regarding inquiries, please be patient. The average response time for email reference inquiries is 1-3 weeks. At its discretion, the Center will not fulfill inquiries that it deems unreasonable.

To speak with a librarian or archivist about your visit to the Lillian Goldman Reading Room, please email or call (212) 294-8301 extension 5101.

Hours of Operation*

Monday-Thursday: 9:30am - 6pm
Fridays: 9:30am - 2pm
Sundays: By advance appointment only

Monday-Thursday, last call for paging is 4:00pm. Friday, last call for paging is 12:00pm.

Sunday visits are by appointment only and must be placed two weeks prior to the proposed date. To schedule an appointment, please email Michelle McCarthy-Behler.

* These hours reflect the reading room’s hours of operation only. They do not mean that archival material can be ordered and brought down at any time during these hours. Some CJH partners do not allow for requests for material beyond a certain time in the day. Please check with the appropriate partner institution in regards to their hours of archival and library operation.

For Hours and Access information for all YIVO repositories, please visit

Group Visits and Instructional Sessions

The Center for Jewish History welcomes groups and classes of all ages. Visitors may explore primary source materials, learn about historical and genealogy research and gain skills that can be applied to any library/archive by visiting the Center’s Outreach Department. Over the past year, we have provided personalized sessions for: school groups of various ages, summer camps, scouting troops, professional organizations and senior citizens centers, all of whom have visited the Ackman & Ziff Genealogy Institute and the Lillian Goldman Reading Room as part of this initiative. Potential sessions can include:

  • Primary source research, as mandated by Common Core
  • Sessions on a selected topic, theme, or time period, using collection materials (Immigration, women’s history, and the historical aspects of “fake news” are a few recent sessions.)
  • Group genealogical classes and research sessions
  • STEM/STEAM themed sessions that show the intersection of science and the humanities/social sciences
  • Girl Scout Troop sessions that fulfill badge requirements for Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors. Click here to learn more about this special offering.

If you are interested in learning more please fill out the form here and we will be in touch.

Information on general tours can be found here.

Rules & Policies

The Center for Jewish History welcomes you to the Lillian Goldman Reading Room, where you can view the expansive and diverse collections of our five partner institutions, the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, the Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. In these collections, each item represents a moment in Jewish history that must be preserved.

We need your help to ensure that the items you are handling will be available to future generations of researchers. We ask users to exercise extraordinary care in handling all materials in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room. In addition, every user is expected to abide by the following policies designed to preserve the collections. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to discuss these with our professional staff.

A valid picture ID must be presented at the front desk upon entering the building. A Reading Room Pass will be issued prior to admittance into the Reading Room. On his/her first visit to the Lillian Goldman Reading Room, each researcher will also be required to create an account for requesting materials.

Permitted in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room:

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Laptops without the cases
  • Digital cameras

Not permitted in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room:

  • Food or beverages
  • Pens
  • Bags, purses, folders, or cases of any kind
  • Strollers

Please note: Lockers are no longer available for daily use. All coats, backpacks, bags, laptop cases, and suitcases must be deposited at the coat check in the lobby.

At the coat check, you will be provided with a clear plastic bag for any personal items you may need during your research visit, such as: laptop/tablet, phone, pencils (no pens or markers), notebook/notepad, personal care items, etc. You may bring wallets or small pouches with personal items, but these also must be placed in the plastic bag. If you have questions, please feel free to ask a reference librarian.

Reference services staff reserve the right to inspect plastic bags upon entry and/or exit, and to restrict entry or access to materials if you cannot comply with these guidelines.

Young children must be supervised at all times by a parent, and any children in the library must be able to understand and obey all rules of the reading room.

We encourage the use of primary sources for middle and high school attendees, and they are welcome to use our collections. However, use of any materials is contingent upon being able to provide a photo ID for issuance of a reading room pass. Therefore, middle and high school attendees that cannot produce a photo ID for admittance will have to use materials with a parent/adult who does have appropriate identification.

Personal books are allowed at the discretion of the reference librarians. Should you need to bring in a book of your own, see the reference staff.

If you have a phone, it must be kept on silent or vibrate. Should you desire to photograph materials for research purposes, please see a reference librarian for the appropriate forms and permissions; permission to photograph is contingent upon adherence to the Center for Jewish History policies regarding digital photography. A camera is available for short-term use by readers; please see the reference librarian for details.

Research materials may not be removed from the Lillian Goldman Reading Room, and must be returned directly to a staff member. Archival boxes will be given to each researcher one at a time. Materials are to be used one folder at a time, keeping the folders flat on the table. The documents must be kept in order within folders, and the folders must be kept in order within the boxes. Please keep your elbows off of the documents. Researchers may use 2 books OR 1 rare book at a time. Certain rare materials require appointments for viewing. Researchers may be required to use white cotton gloves, page turners, or book cradles while handling certain materials. These special handling considerations are at the discretion of the reference librarians.

Microfilm readers are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. During busy times, priority will be given to patrons using microfilm computers to view microfilm. Reference Services staff reserves the right to limit excessive use of microfilm computers when other users are awaiting their turn. Patrons wanting to use microfilm may be required to read and sign an acknowledgment of copyright restrictions (Title 17, “Fair Use”) before being permitted to use Center microfilm. If microform or digitized copies of research materials are available, these will be provided rather than the originals. Any Microfilm/microfiche user who takes a break should not leave the microfilm at the machine, as any other user can use the machine while he/she is away.

Please note that some collections are subject to restrictions placed on the materials by donors, depositors, or staff.

Photocopying and Digital Photography at Center for Jewish History

Photocopies may be obtained by filling out a Photocopy Request Form*. Copies are made only by staff members. Photocopying services may not be possible for fragile materials. Staff reserves the right to be the final arbiter of what may be photocopied. Requests for permission to publish materials from collections must be submitted in writing.

The partners of the Center for Jewish History prefer the use of flash-free personal digital photography in lieu of photocopies, in order to safeguard the condition of our materials. Many archival collections and printed books cannot be photocopied due to concerns about condition, and digital photography is often the only option for reproduction of these materials. Therefore, we strongly encourage all readers to bring a camera, tablet, or smartphone in order to take photos of materials; please do not assume that photocopies will be available or permitted. If you do not have a device capable of photography, please see the Reference Services staff for assistance; we have devices you may borrow to facilitate photography. Please note that scanners are not permitted in the Reading Room.

For general guidance on using digital images in your archival research, including workflow and organizing your images, please see this helpful guide from Cornell University Library:

For Permissions and Reproductions information for YIVO, please visit


Payment is only accepted in US Dollars. Checks or money orders in US Dollars drawn on a US Bank should be made out to: Center for Jewish History.

Please note: The Center for Jewish History reserves the right to rate changes.

Basic Rates

  • $0.25 per page for books, if fewer than 20 pages requested. For more than 20 pages, an estimate will be given from staff based on page count and condition of materials.
  • $0.85-$1 per page for archival materials, dependent on condition of materials and complexity of request.
  • Orders over 50 pages may be subject to an additional surcharge of 15-25% of the total cost. This charge will be estimated by staff and provided to you before the duplication is initiated.
  • Audiovisual materials, photographs/contact sheets/slides, and materials in formats other than paper-based will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Expedited service may be available for an additional charge; please indicate if rush service is desired, so we may calculate these fees in the initial estimate.

Mail Order Charges

  • Minimum Domestic Shipping and Handling: $7.50, (under 50 pages)
  • Over 50 pages:  $10.00
  • Minimum International Shipping and Handling:  $10, with larger orders based on weight

Restrictions on Materials Copied

The Center and our partners reserve the right to determine the format of any duplication requests; your copies may be provided as either a paper photocopy or a digital file. This decision will be made based on the condition of the materials and the size of the request, among other factors. Charges will be estimated by staff and provided to you for review and approval before the duplication is initiated.

  • No copying of items deemed "rare materials" by Reading Room staff.
  • No fragile or brittle items.
  • No bulky or cumbersome materials.
  • No more than 1/3 of any publication or manuscript may be copied.
  • The copying of some material requires written permission of the Donor or the author of the document. We shall inform you if this is the case.
  • Center for Jewish History staff members are the final arbiters of what may be photocopied.


Photocopy Request Procedures

  • Researchers are encouraged to take notes whenever possible, rather than requesting photocopies.
  • Researchers requesting photocopies will be asked to complete a "Photocopy Request Form" and to flag the items to be photocopied. (Acid-free strips of paper will be provided for flagging.)
  • For Books: Insert strips of paper as markers, and indicate page numbers on the form.
  • For Archival Material: Place a strip of paper perpendicular in front of the document you wish to have copied.
  • Provide any identifying characteristic of the document on the strip of paper with your initials in pencil only.
  • Photocopy services are performed by Center for Jewish History staff. Full citations are the responsibility of the researcher.

Document Handling

  • Never remove a document from its folder!
  • Bring the material (books and archival boxes) to the service desk together with your completed "Photocopy Request Form."
  • Photocopy requests normally cannot be filled immediately due to high volume.
  • Photocopies will be mailed to researchers with a charge for shipping and handling, or copies may be picked up in the Reading Room.

Computer Policies

The Center provides computers for visitor use in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room and Genealogy Institute. Use of these computers is limited to:

  • Consultation of electronic catalogues. Information sheets will guide you to the catalogues available through our computers.
  • Internet browsing, solely to provide access to sites that are related to research in Jewish Studies and genealogical research.
  • Email transmissions through your own Internet provider; the Center does not provide email accounts.
  • Printers and one CD-ROM drive are available in public-access computers.  Please call us to book the CD-ROM drive at (212) 294-8301 extension 5101.

DVD players for use with Center for Jewish History material only are available via a laptop from the IT department under the following conditions:

Kindly reserve the laptop 7 days prior to your visit noting that you will be using a DVD. In your request state from which of the partner collections the DVD will be provided (AJHS, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research or Yeshiva University Museum). Before reserving, make sure you have clearance for use of the DVD from the partner organization.

Users may connect their own laptop computers in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room and in the Genealogy Institute.

Restrictions on Use of the Center's Computers

The Center's computers may not be used in any of these ways:

  • Use that violates any federal, state, or local laws, including copyright law and licensing agreements.
  • Use that would violate the Center's tax-exempt status.
  • Attempting to access, or accessing, any Center intranet files, or downloading software, executable files, databases, or related technology, or any activities that would modify or damage Center equipment, software, or databases.
  • Actions that disrupt services for Center staff, volunteers, or users, including but not limited to excessive use of computers when other users are waiting a turn.

Internet Policy

Staff and volunteers may help you access Internet sites, but the Center is not responsible for the accuracy of Internet information.

The Center is a special-purpose institution, committed principally to Jewish studies and genealogical research, and we have a limited number of computers; therefore, visitors should browse only Internet sites related directly to those special purposes.

The Center provides unfiltered Internet access. Users are responsible for accommodating themselves to the consequences of Constitutionally protected communication, even if they might observe or hear objectionable materials while on the Center's premises. We do ask our visitors to be considerate of others regarding any electronic views or sounds that may be disturbing to others.

Parents/legal guardians need to assume responsibility for determining what information resources they want their children to access. The Center assumes that parents/legal guardians have provided guidance to their children about Internet use.

The Center will not release information on the Internet use of any person using a Center computer; however, the Internet is not a secure medium and the Center has no control over the information that others may obtain regarding Internet use.

The Center reserves the right to limit or revoke all computer, Reading Room, and/or Center Genealogy Institute privileges for users who violate Center user policy.

Book Donations

The Lillian Goldman Reading Room/Ackman & Ziff Genealogy Institute will no longer accept donations of books or other collection materials for partner organizations. If you have materials you would like to donate to one of the collections, please send a list of items you would like to donate to the appropriate contact listed. Only donations within the scope of the individual collections will be accepted. All donations are accepted/declined at the sole discretion of partner organizations.

American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS)
AJHS collects books related to all aspects of American Jewish History
Please contact Susan Malbin,

American Sephardi Federation (ASF)
ASF collects books relating to Sephardi / Mizrahi History
Please contact

Leo Baeck Institute (LBI)
LBI collects books related to German-Jewish history
Please contact Renate Evers,

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO)
YIVO collects books related to Yiddish speaking Jews and Eastern European Jewry
Please contact the YIVO Library,