Alumnus donates American Judaica to Firestone Library

Princeton University alumnus Sidney Lapidus has given Princeton's Firestone Library 35 significant books relating to the history of American Jews during the 18th and 19th centuries, including three books by Mordecai Noah, considered by some historians to be the most influential Jew of antebellum America. The books are on view in the lobby of Firestone Library through Friday, Nov. 30.

The exhibition showcases three major themes in the collection: important singular works, books relating to Jewish societies and congregations in the United States, and works prepared as part of the long-running dialogue between American Jews and their countrymen.

Highlights of the Lapidus gift include:

7Three books by Mordecai Noah (1785-1851), whose positions ranged from consul to the Kingdom of Tunis to sheriff of New York. He also worked as surveyor of New York's port, judge in the New York Court of General Sessions, editor of several newspapers and author of several plays. The Lapidus gift includes Noah's detailed "Travels in England, France, Spain, and the Barbary States, in the Years 1813-1814" (New York, 1819) as well as the only recorded copy of Noah's address at the re-dedication of the Apprentices' Library in New York City (1850).

7Two works by Isaac Mayer Wise, regarded as the architect of American Reform Judaism, including his learned 1854 publication "History of the Israelitish Nation."

7Three books by women writers, including "Songs of a Semite" (1882) by Emma Lazarus, whose famous sonnet, "The New Colossus" is enshrined on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty.

7Two 18th-century books published in New York by two of the city's earliest Jewish booksellers, Benjamin Gomez and Naphtali Judah. The books were written by Daniel Levy, an English Jew who answered controversial views by Thomas Paine and Joseph Priestley.

7Several books relating to important Jewish societies and philanthropies, such as B'nai B'rith (1868), the American Jewish Publication Society (1845), the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia (1848) and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (1875-76).

Lapidus, a partner at Warburg Pincus, earned a bachelor's degree in American history at Princeton in 1959 and a law degree at Columbia University. He is president of United Neighborhood Houses, a federation of 36 settlement houses in New York, and serves on the boards of other civic organizations and companies.

With his gift, the library continues to build on its collections of Judaica and Hebraica, including the Leonard L. Milberg Collection of Jewish-American Writers now on view in the main exhibition gallery, and the Judaica section of the Cotsen Children's Library.

The Lapidus gift is part of the library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. For additional information, visit the department's Web site or phone (609) 258-3184.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601