Located at the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica comprises over 140,000 volumes, DVDs, microfilms, newspapers, pamphlets, archives and manuscripts, and over 20,000 digital items. This remarkable library was first established in 1977 with the purchase of Rabbi Leonard C. Mishkin’s personal book collection which, at that time, was the largest and best private library of Judaica in the United States.
The UF Libraries received one of the first National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grants to help fund the purchase of Mishkin’s library. The Mishkin collection was supplemented by two major acquisitions – the Shlomo Marenof Library in 1978 and, in 1979, the inventory of Bernard Morgenstern’s bookstore on New York’s Lower East Side. The following year, two University of Florida alumni, Samuel and Jack Price, decided to endow the University’s burgeoning Judaica Library in honor of their parents. The new Judaica Library was formally named for Isser and Rae Price of Jacksonville in March 1981.
Over the past 40 years, the Price Library of Judaica has gone from strength to strength. In addition to benefiting from 27 years of meticulous development under the direction of Robert Singerman, one of the world’s greatest bibliographers, gift collections from notable academics such as Theodore Gaster, Avraham Balaban and Judith Laikin Elkin, have greatly enriched the Library’s holdings. The recent donation of a small pamphlet collection amassed by award-winning journalist Ruth Gruber, a large collection of scarce pamphlets acquired from Harvard University, and an 18th-19th century working rabbinical library belonging to Rev. Hermann Doych, a refugee from Nazi Germany, have likewise increased its breadth and depth.
The Price Library holds a small and fascinating selection of early important works of Hebraica; however, its overwhelming strength lies in its collection of imprints from the establishment of the Wissenschaft des Judentums (the science of Jewish studies) movement in the early 19th century through to the present time. These works include Jewish social, political and community history; Hebrew and Yiddish linguistics and literature; Palestinography, Zionism, and modern Israel; Hebrew Scriptures, Judaism and rabbinics; a wide array of reference tools, and more than 500 serials and newsletters currently received on subscription. Along with the Library’s inactive older titles, the majority of these serials are not held in other libraries in Florida or neighboring states.
Included among the Library’s distinctive collections are an extraordinary number of uncommon pamphlets, newsletters and ephemera produced by and pertaining to Jewish communities, synagogues, institutions and organizations. Due to their fugitive nature, these “here today, gone tomorrow” publications are considered to be among the greatest of the Price Library’s treasures. In addition, the library boasts an unusual set of Passover Haggadot from around the world, as well as a growing number of Jewish cookbooks. In addition to an extensive Holocaust studies collection, the Library has obtained over 900 scarce and greatly sought after memorial books of extinguished East European Jewish communities.
After receiving a second National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant in 2014, the Price Library is now growing its collection of books, manuscripts and archives relating to and originating from the Jewish communities of Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. Collaborative digitization projects with institutions in Florida, Mexico, Argentina and Cuba are also helping preserve and provide global access to hard-to-find resources through the Price Library’s Jewish Diaspora Collection online.
Though a comparatively young library, the Price Library of Judaica possesses an enviable, comprehensive collection of significant magnitude and potential, marking it out as a library without peer in the southeastern United States. Thanks to the Price family’s ongoing support, and the support of other friends, patrons at UF and around the world can benefit from the Price Library’s wide-ranging collections, which are distinguished by their global scope, exceptional depth and notable singularity.
- Dominican Republic Settlement Association (Dorsa) Scrapbook: commemorating the 1st Anniversary of the founding of a Jewish refugee settlement at Sousa, January 1940.
- Emanuel Merdinger Papers: documents, correspondence and an autobiography relating to the war experiences of a retired UF professor and Holocaust survivor.
- Richard M. Feist Papers: on the work of the Search Bureau of the British Army of the Rhine to trace missing relatives after the Holocaust.
- German Settlers and Nazism in the Americas Photographs: providing a view of the life of German immigrants and settlers in Latin America and illustrating the spread of Nazi ideology.
- José Moskovits Anti-Semitism Collection: c.900 typewritten letters from various politicians, religious leaders, scholars and artists in answer to a survey on anti-Semitism compiled by an Argentinian reparations lawyer.
- Reverend Benjamin Safer and Family Collection: documents four generations of the Safer family of Jacksonville, FL, and includes Reverend Benjamin Safer’s sermons, letters, and notes.
- St. Augustine First Congregation of the Sons of Israel Collection: research findings and documentation on the history of Jews in St. Augustine, the Congregation, the synagogue building, and its cemetery.
Visitors to the Library are welcome to view its special materials and gain a close-up experience of Jewish history and culture in the Judaica Suite, the Price Library’s own beautiful set of reading rooms designed by the award-winning architect, Kenneth Treister. UF’s Judaica Library is truly a source of great pride for the Jewish communities of Florida and beyond.