Boro Park Snapshot: Seforim World
The walls of Olam Haseforim are adorned with the world of
yesteryear, the kol korehs and pashkevillen that drove and inspired Yidden
On one side is a sign, its black on yellow letters screaming to residents of Yerushalayim of old to “t’nu kavod la’Torah” and pay respects to the two sons of the Vizhnitzer rebbe who were arriving from Romania — the future rebbes, Rav Moshe Yehoshua and Rav Mottel Hager. On another side is a poster proclaiming “Yechi adoneinu moreinu v’rabbeinu” to welcome the Satmar rov, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, when he came to Eretz Yisroel after the war. A third calls people to a hesped to be delivered on the petira of Rav Meir Shapiro, the founder of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin and organizer of daf yomi.
The store, otherwise known as Seforim World, is certainly not the typical Judaica store, Yehuda Zevulun Klitnick, the owner who started it 35 years ago, told boropark24.com’s Heshy Rubinstein in an interview.
“This store is a unique one,” Mr. Klitnick said. “You could buy new seforim anywhere. But there are some people that look for interesting seforim that you don’t find in an average seforim store. We are built for those people. We also have old seforim that belonged to tzaddikim, items that were owned and used by tzaddikim.”
Walk into Olam Haseforim, located at 4403 16th Ave., and you are more likely to find seforim older than you, coins stamped with a date from a century ago or stamps from more places than Marco Polo visited.
Many people who purchase the antique seforim are usually as gifts for rabbanim or bar mitzvah presents for the boy who has it all, Mr. Klitnick said.
He usually gets them from people who are niftar and leave behind libraries. The heirs may decide not to go through the yellowing sets and just choose to give it all away to someone who can properly categorize and care for them.
Mr. Klitnick also sought out the vast number of seforim laying around Europe years ago, abandoned since the Nazi war machine eliminated their owners who lovingly treasured them. He traveled several times to Russia and Hungary two decades ago. Now, he said sadly, that market has dried up for collectors such as him.
One person in particular was a steady supplier of old seforim for Mr. Klitnick. Moshe Weiss, the gabbai of the Kozhitzer beis medrash in Pest, had an enormous house above the shul that contained entire rooms full of seforim. Mr. Klitnick also received seforim from Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin, formerly of Minsk, who would purchase old seforim for him.
Letters for sale include ones from as disparate figures as the Husyatener rebbe, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and the Pupa Rebbe. A silver cane leans against a wall, a remnant of the Tolna rebbe of Philadelphia.
The rebbe, Rav Moshe Tzvi Twersky, did not leave behind any children and left his extensive seforim library to the Scranton yeshiva. Some of his personal effects, however, were unwittingly sold with the house after his passing.
“Someone who was not Jewish bought his house,” Mr. Klitnick recalled. “They called me and said they found two things in the house — a tabak pushka and this stick.”
The stick is for sale for $800 and the tobacco case for $500.
He also sells coins from around the world for the amateur numismatist and an array of stamps. Among his coin collection are currency used by Yidden in the ghettos during World War II.
In his private life, Mr. Klitnick is the publisher of Pardes Yehuda, a weekly pamphlet that appears in shuls around the world each Shabbos. Written in both Yiddish and English, it contains stories of tzaddikim and Divrei Torah on the parsha.
The coronavirus took a bite out of sales, but he was able to pick up other business without customers having to come to his store.
“Boruch Hashem there are telephones,” he said. “And there’s also a post office.”