In recent years, as a token of respect and affection for the Rebbe, Shlita, and his great father,
a number of important institutions in the worldwide Chabad community have been established
bearing Rabbi Levi Yitzchok's holy name. Among them is the Levi Yitzchok Library of Lubavitch
Youth Organization in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
The history of the library dates back to the year 1972. On the 11th of Nissan of that year,
the Rebbe's seventieth birthday, he called for a "birthday present" during the coming year at
least seventy-one new institutions dedicated to the furtherance and strengthening of Torah,
mitzvos observance and Jewish education. Immediately, all existing Chabad centers
throughout the world threw themselves into the task of establishing one or more such institutions.
Later that same year, on Tishrei 6, the Yahrtzeit of his mother the Rebbetzin Chana o.b.m., the Rebbe suggested that among the institutions that should be established in each place are libraries of Torah books. The advantage of a library, he explained, is that it can encourage the keeping of numerous other mitzvos, in addition to the actual Torah study that is involved in reading the books. Increased mitzvah observance can result from reading literature that deals with practical aspects of Jewish life, while other books can inspire Jews to stronger commitment to their faith by detailing, for example, the life histories of great Jewish personalities of the past. A library can serve as a rallying-center in the Jewish community, a social focal-point where Jew meets Jew in a Torah-true environment, thereby mutually strengthening each other's Jewish feelings.
In Crown Heights, the world center of Chabad activities, plans were immediately discussed for a large imposing library. A suitable building was found and beautifully fitted out for the large-capacity library, and on 14 Kislev, 1973 (the Rebbe's wedding anniversary), the extensive restructuring and decoration of the building was finally concluded and the library was officially founded. The following months saw the acquisitions of thousands of volumes in Hebrew, English, Yiddish and other tongues. And when the Rebbe, Shlita, called for the expansion of this celebrated ten-point "Mitzvah Campaign" which included "filling the home with Torah-books" there came additional powerful impetus for expansion of the library.
On 20 Av, 1975, his father's Yahrtzeit, the Rebbe, Shlita, officially authorized the use of his father's name for the library. This was the beginning of the Rebbe's intimate personal relationship with the library, which he demonstrates in many ways. He has participated in the library financially on several occasions and has donated a number of books from his own private collection including some that he was accustomed to use himself on a day to day basis. On the day of the Yahrtzeit each year, as also on the day of Rabbi Levi Yitzhok's birthday on 18 Nissan, special lectures and study sessions are held in the library on themes from Rabbi Levi Yitzchok's printed works.
Since it began operations, the library has been involved in a continuos program of
expansion. In addition to keeping up to date with numerous new publications in many
languages that come off the press year by year, the library has established an
extensive tape collection of Chassidic and traditional Jewish music, Talmud,
Mishana, Chassidic philosophy, the Rebbe's farbrengens (Chassidic gatherings)
and other Torah and educational subjects. Recently, the foundations of a microfilm
library have been laid, with several hundred microfiche or rare books and manuscripts.
So far, this project has been concentrating on material on Chabad history and
literature for research purposes. The library is also responsible for a number of "firsts"
including the first complete collection of all of the Rebbe's non-edited Sichos and
Maamorim (Transcripts of his Talks and Discourses at farbrengens).
Another new project currently being introduced is the complete computerization of the entire library's collection. The complete use of Hebrew characters for all Hebrew and Yiddish volumes in this computerization iso also a notable "first" for the library. It seems that other than the printing of Hebrew books, this is the first time the Hebrew alphabet is being used outside of Israel for day-to-day computer operation. The aim of this project is to cut down the need for labor in cataloguing new books, which at present can take between twenty and sixty minutes per volume. Eventually it is planned to create completely separate listings for authors, titles and subjects, which will be of immense use to those attending the library and should also cut down the time taken for cataloguing a new book by at least eighty percent.
The numbers of those using the library have been steadily rising. Is is estimated that over the past three years close to fifty thousand people have availed themselves of its facilities. They range from college-students interested in Chassidic philosophy and Yeshiva students investigating a particular Talmudic or Halachic problem, to senior citizens who wish to utilize their leisure-time usefully, busy housewives who borrow books for home reading and children who come to do their homework.
The concept of such a library, and especially its outstanding organization and success, have served as an inspiring model for the establishment of similar institutions around the world. Other sections of New York City and other urban centers where there are large concentrations of Jewish population saw just how instrumental such a Torah-library can be in strengthening Jewish life. In emulating the example of the Levi Yitzchok Library, they also availed themselves of the expertise of the librarians there for advice in establishing their own libraries, and continue to do so. Even as far away as Israel, and outlying cities around the United States and Canada, help and advice have been sought by existing and new libraries.
Funding of the library is entirely by private donation. Those who contribute over $1,000 are inscribed on a special wall-plaque, while many have donated books and smaller sums in memory of loved ones or in honor of important family events. In fact, these days, contributions to a library are perhaps the only practical way of carrying out the Talmudic recommendation, based on the verse from Psalms (CX113): "His righteousness stands forever" - "This means one who writes down the Torah in book-form and lends the books to others." (Kesubos, 50a).
Among future plans are the relocation of the library on the much larger upper floor of the same building and expansion of the tape and microfilm collections. It is also hoped to reach wider and wider circles of the Jewish population and inspire the establishment of yet more and more libraries in an all-out attempt to accomplish the prophetical prediction (Isaiah XI, 9); " The earth shall be as full of knowledge of G-d as waters cover the sea" - with the coming of Moshiach!