TAU Inaugurates Historian Bernard Lewis' Personal Collection of Middle Eastern Scholarship

Unmatched archive from an illustrious career finds a permanent home at TAU

TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter and Bernard Lewis
Prof. Joseph Klafter (left) and
Prof. Bernard Lewis inaugurate the
Lewis Collection at TAU

Friends, family, and scholars gathered on January 20 on the Tel Aviv University campus to celebrate the inauguration of the Professor Bernard Lewis Collection, housed at the Sourasky Central Library. Comprised of approximately 18,000 items, including rare books in multiple languages, journals, documents, and letters, the archive holds the personal collections of preeminent Middle East historian Prof. Bernard Lewis, acquired over the course of his distinguished career.

The ceremony reflected the close relationship between Prof. Lewis and TAU, which has flourished for the past four decades. TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter thanked Prof. Lewis for the magnificent gift, noting that it would continue his legacy for many generations of scholars and students. "Through it, your name and your immense influence on the field and on Tel Aviv University will live on for many more generations," he told the historian.

Na'ama Scheftelowitz, Itamar Rabinovich, et al.
Left to right:
Sourasky library head Na'ama Sheftelowitz,
Prof. Itamar Rabinovich,
Prof. Joseph Klafter, Prof. Bernard Lewis,
and Buntzie Ellis-Churchill

Beyond its contribution to the stature of TAU's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies as a leader in Middle Eastern scholarship, Prof. Itamar Rabinovitch, former Ambassador of Israel to the United States and former President of TAU, said that the importance of the collection lies in offering students access to specialized materials, encouraging them to engage with print in this digital age. Dana Raz, the MA student who is working to catalogue and process the collection, expressed her admiration for the richness of the archives, saying that her daily involvement with the materials has served to increase her curiosity and hunger for knowledge.

Quoting from his recently published memoir Notes on a Century, Prof. Lewis reflected warmly on his "rewarding and interesting career," filled by his prolific writings, stimulating debates, and cherished friends and family. "I have been particularly fortunate in the way that you have honored me today," he thanked the crowd.

Celebrating a teacher, mentor, and friend

Prof. Asher Susser, Prof. Uzi Rabi, et al.
Left to right: Prof. Asher Susser,
Prof. Uzi Rabi, Prof. Itamar Rabinovich,
Prof. Bernard Lewis, Prof. Eyal Zisser,
and Prof. Shimon Shamir

The intimate gathering spoke of the influence of Bernard Lewis on the TAU campus, said Prof. Klafter, "the teacher and friend who the University welcomed for more than 30 years." Since traveling to TAU for a conference in 1971, Prof. Lewis has visited the Dayan Center annually, offering popular lecture series, mentoring students, and connecting with colleagues. In 1989, he established the Jenny and Harry Lewis Program in the Humanities, named in memory of his parents.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University President & CEO Gail Reiss also attended the ceremony. "The academic importance of this gift is obvious," she said, "but the inauguration had the wonderful feeling of a family affair. The admiration, respect, and friendship that the Dayan Center's professors and students feel for Bernard Lewis was unmistakable." Prof. Lewis was recently the guest of honor at a gala dinner in New York held by American Friends of Tel Aviv University, at which former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other dignitaries lauded the historian's career.

According to Prof. Rabinovitch, TAU has been like a second home to Prof. Lewis, who remained at the University even as Israel was being attacked by Saddam Hussein's missiles in 1991 — a show of deep commitment to the country and school.

"I know he cherished the weeks at TAU and in Israel," Prof. Rabinovitch said at the ceremony. "Three generations of students have now benefitted from his wisdom, knowledge, warmth, and personal friendship." Though never a student of Prof. Lewis himself, he credited Prof. Lewis for teaching him much of what he knows, and reflected on their 40 year friendship, which included "long conversations on the Middle East, Israel, and any subject under the sun."

Photos: Michal Roche-Ben

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