Thursday, February 21, 2008

Adventures on the 1 train

Hello from the Old-New computer. Our first trip (mine and the new harddrive's) was to the Jewish Theological Seminary's library, to read up on a not-so-famous French convert. The JTS library could not be more different from NYU's. Rather than being filled with mostly-female undergrads in leggings or skinny jeans, the place is chock full of orthodox Jewish men. For whatever entirely unfair and prejudicial reason, the JTS thus struck me as a better, more serious place to work. Of course, people chat loudly in both libraries, answer cell phones, and otherwise fail to respect the sanctity of the place, but a momentary respite from the Urban Outfitters spring collection can't hurt when one is researching the early 19th century.

I would switch study spots entirely were it not for several factors: 1) The JTS is on 122nd Street, and thus not remotely near school or home. 2) As a non-JTS student, I cannot use the internet, and what with my passion for emailing everything I write to myself as backup, this is a problem. 3) To go read an obscure book about the "Jewish Question" in Old Regime France requires a security check greater than what's needed to get on an airplane in Israel. Because it's a Jewish building, and thus a possible target for attack since (all together now) everyone hates the Jews, not only does a security guard glance at you suspiciously and go through your backpack, but, once this is done, he asks you to empty your pockets and waves a metal detector all around your torso. Seeing as someone (possibly in 1954) already spilled a beverage on the book in question, I don't know quite what problems they thought I would cause. Seeing as school shootings happen all the time at colleges across the nation these days, I doubt if Jewish sites are even that much more statistically at risk. Anyhow, that, plus the Early Modern dress of my fellow researchers, combined to make for a very authentic experience reading about anti-Semitism in pre-Revolutionary Europe.


Unknown said...

Did they make you wash your hands and/or wear gloves when reviewing the historical text?

If they didn't they should have.

The oils and sweat from your hands degrade the paper, especially non-acid free paper as in books from the mid 19th to 20th centuries.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I'm quite sure that a 1950s soda did more damage to the book in question than hand-oils, but... good to know.

Withywindle said...

You are optimistic in your statistics. WIthout security, I suspect the amount of violence and terror directed at Jewish universities and institutions would skyrocket. An unprovable counterfactual one way or the other, I suppose, but JTS and its peers would be fools not to take precautions.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Why would it skyrocket? Are Jews that hated on the Upper West Side?

Withywindle said...

Why do you think there is an Ari Halberstam memorial ramp on the Brooklyn Bridge? Were Jews especially hated in Buenos Aires when Hezbollah killed 90 of them a decade ago? The world is full of people who are willing to venture outside their neighborhood to kill Jews. Not to engage in hyperbolic rhetoric or anything, but Jews weren't particularly hated in Auschwitz in 1938.