Levi Yitzchok Library Reopens for Women and Children

Photos: David Katash/Anash.org

The Levi Yitzchok Library on Kingston Ave. reopened on Sunday for women and children, further cementing the change of status and function of the library since it was established with the Rebbe’s encouragement.  

By Anash.org reporter

The Levi Yitzchok Library on Kingston Ave. reopened on Sunday for women and children, further cementing the change of status and function of the library since it was established with the Rebbe’s encouragement.  

The idea for the library first came up in 5733, following the Rebbe’s call at the Vov Tishrei farbrengen that year to establish Torah libraries in each community. Over the coming months, Reb Dovid Raskin, the tireless activist who stood at the helm of Tzach, worked with R’ Leibel Mochkin and other chassidim to convert the basement of the building at 305 Kingston Avenue into a proper library.

It took a year and a half of intensive work, and finally in Teves of 5734, the library was ready and a dedication ceremony was held.

In 5735, the Rebbe agreed to have the library named after his saintly father Harav Levi Yitzchok Schneerson, and the library acquired its current name ‘The Levi Yitzchok Library’.

Throughout the construction and in the following years, the Rebbe clearly expressed his vision for the library; A proper Torah library where people can come and learn, while at the same time serving as a center where visitors to the community can stop in and be drawn into a authentic atmosphere of Yiddishkeit.

This was even more expressed after the library was named for Harav Levi Yitzchok. For many years, a shiur on his seforim was held annually on Chof Av in the library, given by Reb Yoel Kahn or other venerable chassidim.

The Rebbe even gifted a number of seforim to the library, including a full set of Shas!

Indeed, for years the library served its dedicated purpose, and was primarily a Torah library where one could find a sefer on virtually any topic he so desired. The library also bought a computer, a novelty at the time, at the price of nearly $40,000 to catalog the seforim, and hosted a full collection of tapes of the Rebbe’s farbrengens, another rarity at the time.

In recent years, however, the library experienced an acute change in status and operation. Following years of stagnation, the library attempted to repackage itself and serve a different purpose. More and more hours began being dedicated for children and their mothers, and the hours the library was open to the general public were gradually cut. In the past few years, the library was only open for men and boys over bar mitzvah a single day a week, for a few hours, with the rest of the time dedicated to children’s programs.

In the summer of 5781, heavy rains caused flash floods in many areas of New York, with Crown Heights hit hard. Among the buildings flooded were the Levi Yitzchok library, which is well below street level. Many books became waterlogged, and the building itself needed extensive repair.

After months of renovations, the library held an official reopening on Sunday for a limited crowd. Unfortunately, instead of being rededicated as a Torah library as the Rebbe requested, the dedication was strictly for children and their mothers. A glance on the website reveals the statement that “Unfortunately, at this time we do not have men’s [or boys over bar mitzvah] hours.”

The dedication was attended by many mothers and children from the Crown Heights community, who were excited to once again be able to visit their loved library and read their favorite Jewish books.

Crafts and activities were set out for the children to enjoy, and librarians were on hand to assist with finding or checking out a book.

To read more about the story of the founding of the library and its history, along with the Rebbe’s instructions and advise, click here.

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  1. My kids have been attending the library for

    It did not just open. My husband goes to collel to learn. This library is a treasure
    And my family loves it. Only look at the positive.

  2. While there may be some validity to the changes in who the library is serving at this time, it is sad that a hard-earned and long awaited event was denigrated for someone’s obvious agenda.
    Perhaps a sincere request to the administrator of the library, and suggestions for a competent male librarian would yield results.
    Until then, Boruch Hashem that our children can be encouraged to read proper Jewish content and grow in Yiddishkeit right in Kan tziva

  3. Surely some men can run the library on Monday, or a couple of nights a weeks after 6 when the library would otherwise be closed.

    The rebbe have permission to use his father’s name when the library was open to all. Went change it now?.

  4. Your comments about the “dumbiing down” of the library’s mission are correct, but unfortunately you don’t seem to have the whole picture. The library has reopened without a male librarian, and despite advertising and outreach, they don’t have any man willing or able to take the job. If you would present qualified candidates, I am sure the library would hire them. second, and I think more importantly, the reason the library has become so popular with mothers and children is that there is NO Other place that is safe, secure, and FREE for mothers to bring their children for some quiet activity and socializing. There is a Motherhood Center, but it charges an admission fee and is really geared towards mothers with babies/toddlers. It does not fill the need of school age children. Once our community opens a community center that is free and safe and welcoming for our families, then the library can return to its original purpose. (I don’t see that happening before Moshiach, as the community keeps citing their inability to build a center that is only available to our people….).
    Third, the library does not need to be a place for socializing and activities first before research and learning. Family hours are 1-6 or 7pm. The morning hours and the evening/nighttime hour are ostensibly available for men and bochurim to come and learn and do research. but we would need a male librarian for that…. I hope these points clarify the picture for you and maybe you’ll be the key to finding appropriate male staff that would lead to the LYLibrary fulfilling its mission…

  5. The Levi Yitzchak Library is an amazing resource! After getting this suggestion from another school, I recently started bringing my high school students there to research their reports. It’s eye opening for the girls to learn to find and open actual seforim instead of searching chabad.org etc. It has been an absolute game changer and we redesigned the entire report based on the availability of the library for research purposes.
    I have also chaperoned a high school class on their visit to the library for hey teves, and helped guide them in discovering and learning about different seforim.
    I am so greatful that the Levi Yitzchak Library is available for this, especially since most girls (especially those who are not living at home) don’t have access to stores of seforim in shuls and batei medrash. Keep up the amazing work!

  6. I was so excited to bring my kids to join in. It was heimish, inexpensive, and we had a great time! Was so nice to show my kids how a library is not just novels but also seforim, and showed them the kids ones too. Thank you to the organizers for all the work you put in!

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