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Three Faiths

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Librarians, curators, programmers, educators, and users share their thoughts on faith, and discuss the Library's Three Faiths exhibition. Check here regularly from October to February 2011 for: behind-the-scenes glimpses at the making of the exhibition; art, literature, and music at the intersection of Judiasm, Christianity, and Islam; lively discussions about the similarities and differences among these three religions... And more!

Meet the Scholar: Melissa Forstrom

Melissa ForstromMuseums. They are great. From Museum of Mathematics to Museum of Glass, there's so much to see and to learn about these topics in our shared history. Whenever I visit a new town or country, I am always eager to check out their local or national museums; they offer a glimpse of their cultural histories, identities and accomplishments.

However, some exhibitions can also showcase contested and controversial materials. Take for example the

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Meet the Scholar: Nerina Rustomji

Nerina Rustomji and her book, "The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture."About 6 years ago, I was taking an undergraduate class on the history of the Modern Middle East taught by Professor Nerina Rustomji of St. John's University. The class opened my eyes to the complexity of the region. She challenged us to look differently at the historic and ongoing conflicts in the area and America's intricate relationships with Middle Eastern countries before September 11th. 

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Where the Hell is Hell? A Look at the Underworld

The Ancient Greeks believed it. Christians believe it. So do Muslims, Zoroastrians,

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The Jews of Shanghai: Uncovering the Archives and Stories

"Life was difficult in Shanghai, but infinitely better than anything they had left behind. From lower-middle-class comfort, the Tobias family was reduced to poverty but not to starvation. There was always food, always something to eat, always shelter even when the Jewish community was ghettoized shortly after Pearl Harbor. Thus even under terribly difficult conditions Moses Tobias was able to take care of his family but under the Nazis the conditions of the Jews were far worse than merely 'terribly difficult.'

"Shanghai was a multiethnic city and the 

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Finding Jesus at NYPL: A Research Guide

Perhaps no person in human history is more controversial than Jesus of Nazareth. The parable above (among many other well known ones) came from Jesus in the New Testament of the Christian

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The End of the World.... and other subject headings

Subject heading of the month: Eschatology.

Many of the NYPL's worldly readers may know that the end of the world concept, or eschatology (Dewey call number 236), has its own heading in the Catalog for readers who want to browse books, ebooks, and DVDs on the subject.

The Oxford English Dictionary, available at the NYPL's Articles & Databases page has a gloriously detailed definition that is an 

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: The Rain of Crosses

The New York Public Library business card logoDid you know that The New York Public Library has an official color? I didn't either, and I've worked here since the Dark Ages (before the Internet). But we do, as I found out when I ordered new business cards recently. The color is red.

That's fine with me—I've always liked red (political considerations aside), and besides it gives me an excuse to select as the Spencer Collection Book of the Month for April a small volume containing two illustrations in vivid red. It is appropriate also because Easter falls in April this 

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Contemplating the Sabbath in the Digital Age

How many times have you vowed to build more downtime into your weekend schedule? How often have you done it?

So many things get in the way—deadlines, e-mails, children, chores. And although we long for unstructured time, in some other part of ourselves, we're also proud of how much we work and revel in our inability to stop doing so.

The question of whether to rest or not on the weekend didn't use to be so tortured. Only during the past half a century did Americans become free to disregard the ancient commandment not to work one day a week.  

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Religious Tolerance Booklist

The New York Public Library's Three Faiths exhibition explores the commonalities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  But what of the other faiths of the world? There is much to be learned from all of them. Here is a selection of recently published books that discuss those differences as well as the importance of promoting greater tolerance and understanding.

Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith 

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: Correspondence of St. Jerome

When I started blogging last May, I hoped to post frequently, but my "day job" of cataloging the books I'd like to write about kept getting in the way. This year, I made a New Year's resolution to blog more regularly. To get started, I thought I would pick a "Spencer Collection Book of the Month" at the beginning of each month and write a short post about it—just enough to share with my readers some of the things that make it special, because the Spencer 

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Shazam! The Power of Language in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Hebrew text of first words of GenesisFrom “Abracadabra” to “Shazam,” and from “Say the magic word” to “Open Sesame,” humans have long believed that words and languages have a power far beyond and far deeper than their simple rational meanings.

The ancient peoples of Mesopotamia developed a mythological explanation for this belief. Humans, the ancient legend of the Tower of Babel story goes, once spoke a divine language, the language God gave to us. This divine language enabled the first humans to communicate with God 

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Historical Perspectives on the Three Faiths

If the Three Faiths exhibit has piqued your curiosity, here are five books that offer some historical background to the origin and development of the three religious traditions.

Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths Bruce Feiler New York: W. Morrow, 2002

The author presents Abraham as he is portrayed in all three 

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Languages of God: The Word as Decoration

The First Polyglot Psalter, Psalter, in Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and Aramaic; Genoa: Petrus Paulus Porrus, 1516The New York Public Library, Rare Book DivisionJews and Muslims have a particular attachment to languages as expressions of the Word of God. Hebrew and Arabic are both sacred languages since both are in a sense the language of God Himself.

But there is an important difference. The Jews lost their Hebrew as a living language while the Bible was still 

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Beautiful Words, Beautiful Writing: Calligraphy at Muhlenberg

Many local branches have been offering special programs relating to NYPL’s major fall exhibition, Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Recently, I was excited to host a calligraphy program for our teens at the Muhlenberg branch.

We started with a straight line. Just like when you play an instrument or run a mile, you have to warm up. So we drew line after line until we got the right shape. Then we learned diamonds. When you put those two 

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Scribing the Sacred

If you find inspiration in thoughts of pen angles and letter heights, please visit the “Scriptorium” at The New York Public Library’s “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam” exhibition.

In the Scriptorium you will see the tools of the scribe: paper, ink, and pens, and learn how they have been used to create religious manuscripts over the centuries. The exhibit hall also contains a lighted table, with 

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Behind the Scenes at Three Faiths: A Conversation with Senior Exhibitions Conservator Myriam de Arteni

Myriam de Arteni has been painstakingly repairing the library’s vast collections for more than three decades. But for de Arteni, conserving works in the “Three Faiths” exhibit--which include some of the library’s oldest and most precious documents--has been one of her most ambitious projects yet.

How does this exhibit compare to other exhibits you’ve worked on? Was it among the most ambitious?

Yes, it was very challenging because it features such rare and fragile 

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Guardians of the Sacred Word

The first multilingual Psalter. Genoa, 1516. The New York Public Library, Rare Book Division.For very long time, Jews, Christians and Muslims have behaved toward one another like members of a dysfunctional family, like the competitors for an immense inheritance, the favor of Almighty God. But the current exhibition at the New York Public Library uncovers quite another strain of familiarity among the three, their devotion to the book.

Many cultures value the written word, the art of writing and a reverence for 

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St. Clare, Patron Saint of Embroiderers

I recently learned, while reading the Summer 1966 issue of Embroidery, that embroiderers have their own patron saint.  She's St. Clare of Assisi, an Italian contemplative known for her hand-sewn altar cloths as well as for her extremely austere way of life.  In 1966, the members of the Embroiderers' Guild, an impressive English organization responsible for the publication of Embroidery, embarked on a shared project inspired by the saint as part of the Guild's 

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On the Shadows in Abraham's Cave: Thoughts on Beryl Korot and Steve Reich's 'The Cave'

The Cave, by wife and husband team Beryl Korot (video artist) and Steve Reich (composer), is an experimental multimedia piece featuring recorded interviews set to live music. Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans are all asked about the significance of the story of Abraham and his burial place, The Cave of Machpelah, which is held sacred by Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

Interviewees are asked about the significance of Abraham to their lives, the significance of his two sons Ishmael and Isaac, and their two 

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