In 1930, Lucius N. Littauer, Class of 1878, presented his first gift to the Harvard College Library, beginning a tradition of extraordinary support of the library’s Judaica Division.
This year, the Littauer Foundation awarded a grant of $1 millon for the Littauer Harvard Judaica Librarian’s Endowment to fund staff positions, bringing total gifts to the division to more than $5 million.
“The Littauer Foundation’s generosity over the years has been all the more vital and appreciated because it has focused primarily on a need for which funding is extremely difficult to secure: support for highly skilled staff,” said Charles Berlin, Lee M. Friedman Bibliographer in Judaica and head of the Judaica Division.
After graduating from Harvard, Littauer went to work for his father’s leather business in his native New York. Shortly thereafter, the business became one of the largest glove manufacturing companies in the country. Littauer later served five terms in the U.S. Congress, from 1896 to 1907, as a representative from New York. In Washington he served on the Appropriations Committee and as an adviser to Theodore Roosevelt. A noted philanthropist, Littauer established The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation in 1929. He made his first gift to the Judaica Collection the following year when he helped the library acquire the Ephraim Deinard Collection of Hebraica, the foundation for what would become Harvard’s world-renowned collection.In the 1930s, Littauer presented the library with additional Hebraica, and in memory of his father, Nathan Littauer, he established the College Library’s first endowed Judaica book fund. When Lucius Littauer died in 1944, the Littauer Foundation maintained a generous relationship with the Judaica Collection, eventually establishing seven additional endowed book funds and contributing toward others. Recognizing critical needs for both preservation services and highly skilled library staff, the foundation established the Harvard Littauer Judaica Endowment to Fund Judaica Preservation, a first for the College Library; and the Littauer Hebraica Technical and Research Services Librarianship, the Harvard National Judaica Librarianship, and the Littauer Judaica Student Assistantships.
In addition, the Littauer Foundation provides grants for various Judaica programs, projects, and acquisitions, including sponsoring a conference on Judaica research librarianship, microfilming collections in Eastern Europe, digitizing Israeli radio archives, and acquiring Israeli and American videos.
“The pioneering support for preservation of library resources provided by the Littauer Foundation has been a crucial factor in assuring that Harvard will, in perpetuity, have the ability to maintain its collections in the service of scholarship,” said Berlin.
Littauer and his foundation have also supported Harvard University’s teaching and research programs. The most significant was the gift in 1925 to establish the Graduate School of Public Administration at Harvard, now the Kennedy School of Government in the Littauer Center for Public Administration. Other gifts created: the Nathan Littauer Professorship of Jewish History and Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (1925), the first chair in Jewish Studies at an American university; the Harry A. Wolfson Professorship of Jewish Studies (1975) in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; the Harry Starr Professorship of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature (1976); and the Harry A. Wolfson Fellowship in Jewish Studies (1989) in the Divinity School. Foundation gifts also supported the Kennedy School’s Starr Auditorium and Radcliffe’s Louise Littauer Gallery.
Harvard libraries hold the papers of Lucius Littauer and Harry Starr, the foundation’s longtime president.