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Yost Takes Legal Action to Protect Rare Book Collection at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati


(CINCINNATI, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the sale of copies of the Talmud and other ancient books housed in Cincinnati’s Klau Library at Hebrew Union College.

Through the years, donors have given money to fund the library and care for the rare books and manuscripts.

“These sacred texts are invaluable artifacts — religious and cultural treasures.” AG Yost said. “Their sale would not only betray donor trust but also may violate legal restrictions placed on the gifts.”

Yost’s legal action follows revelations that the college, the first permanent Jewish institution of higher learning in America, has indicated interest in selling some of the precious texts to offset its sizable deficits.

The Klau Library collection includes 14,000 items in the Rare Book Room, some potentially worth millions of dollars. The texts were entrusted to the library with the understanding that they would be preserved and maintained for use by scholars and researchers worldwide. The academic community relies on access to these texts — an integral part of the library’s public service and educational roles.

If sold to private collectors, the books would no longer be publicly available. Any sale could be a breach of the Hebrew Union board’s fiduciary duties to the library’s public beneficiaries. And, for books that can be sold, sale proceeds must be used to acquire other collection items. Using sale proceeds to reduce the college’s deficit could constitute an illegal use of assets donated expressly to fund the collection. 

In his filing yesterday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, Yost asks the court to halt any potential sale, highlighting the importance of honoring donor intent and preserving the integrity of institutional missions. A hearing on the matter will be held today at 11 a.m.

“A library without its most precious artifacts and texts is like a body without a soul,” he said. “We are committed to ensuring that these irreplaceable items remain available to the public and are cared for as their donors intended.”

Hannah Hundley: 614-906-9113


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