March 18 2013 12:00 AM

The Irwin T. and Shirley Holtzman Collection of Israeli Literature is scheduled to arrive this week

A major donation to Michigan State University will soon introduce students to a plethora of foreign writers, as well as spurring cultural connections between the U.S. and Israel.
The Irwin T. and Shirley Holtzman Collection of Israeli Literature is coming to the shelves of the MSU Library. Ranging from fiction to poetry, drama and correspondences with authors and politicians, the collection covers the breadth of Israel’s lifespan, and includes works from authors both internationally renowned and lesser known, such as Amos Oz and Yoram Kaniuk.
The collection is scheduled to arrive at MSU this week; professors and librarians were expecting up to 1,800 titles.
According to Deborah Margolis, a librarian at MSU and the library’s liaison for Jewish Studies, most of these will be housed in the library’s special collections, but some — those titles with multiple copies — will be put in the main stacks, where people will be able to check them out and read at their leisure.
For a research-oriented institution like MSU, it’s quite the literary coup.
“A lot of the collection is in Hebrew,” Margolis said. “Hebrew language and culture is studied at MSU, and we’re looking forward to a better collection to support that. There’s some American translations, but also books in Arabic, Yiddish and Russian, all written in Israel.”
A Detroit-area builder and business owner, Holtzman (who died last year) was also a serious bibliophile, with collections that crossed cultural boundaries. He had a particular interest in modern writers but, as much as Holtzman loved to collect, he showed no qualms about sharing his collections.
Previous donations have been made in his name to several academic and cultural institutions, both in the United States and abroad.
For MSU’s Jewish Studies program, this particular collection is like striking gold. Holtzman worked to foster a cultural exchange between Israeli authors and politicians and America and, as such, a great many of his correspondences were about literature.
The benefits extend beyond a single program.
“Diversity is one of our polars,” Margolis said of MSU. “This will help foster inter-cultural connections. As a librarian, I think literature is a wonderful way to connect with cultures that may be different from yours.”