Because its members began moving away from the area to be closer to family, the Philadelphia-based Lena L. Orlow Chapter of Jewish Women International resolved to cease operations in 2006. However, when the members realized that cash still remained in the group's treasury, they decided that it should benefit others locally in some appropriate manner, rather than being diverted into a national fund, according to Dr. Matti K. Gershenfeld, the chapter's founding president.
That said, about $1,000 was donated to the Tuttleman Free Public Library of Gratz College to found the Lena L. Orlow Chapter, Jewish Women International Jewish Women's Collection. The 15 scholarly books, many published by university presses, deal with Jewish women in history, literature and world culture.
"This is a wonderful monument to the chapter," said Gershenfeld.
Founded in 1948, the chapter was named in honor of Gershenfeld's aunt.
Eli Wise, director of the Tuttleman Library, began gathering the eclectic array of books earlier this year, based on a list of recommended works from chapter members, all of which highlight the "intellectual contributions of women in Judaism beyond Golda Meir and Henrietta Szold."
Topics included Jewish women in medieval Europe, Orthodox women and feminism, the Holocaust, and stories of Jewish women in Latin America, Europe and North Africa.
The books went into circulation last month, in time for the new academic year, and helped to diversify the library's women's studies selections.
Wise said that "these titles are power-packed with lots of information. It will serve the general public, as well as students."
Fifteen might not seem like a big number, he admitted, but they contain a wealth of knowledge, and can serve as a springboard to other resources courtesy of their numerous footnotes and bibliographies.
The library has approximately 125,000 books and periodicals with Jewish content. About 600 of those titles concern women and Judaism. As with many libraries, limited funds don't allow the opportunity to purchase every book the library might wish to possess, noted Wise, especially with the rising cost of hardcovers.
The librarian said he hopes that avid readers and students will utilize the new resources when researching women in Judaism for projects or for personal reference.
Gershenfeld duly noted that former chapter members would continue to donate books to the collection, which can be accessed during regular library hours and also online (www.gratz.edu).