Located at the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica comprises over 120,000 fully cataloged volumes, 9,000 scanned items, incorporates a number of major private collections, and is distinguished by its global scope, exceptional depth and notable singularity. This remarkable library was first established in 1977 with the purchase of Rabbi Leonard C. Mishkin’s personal collection of books, then the largest private library of Judaica in the United States. A professor of Jewish history at the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago, Mishkin had amassed over 30,000 volumes covering virtually every area of scholarship and in a wide variety of languages. The UF Libraries received one of the first National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grants to help fund the purchase of Mishkin’s 40,000 volumes. In 1978, a collection of Hebrew works owned by the late Dr Shlomo Marenof, lecturer in Near Eastern studies at Brandeis University was added to the library. And in 1979, the Library’s new bibliographer, Robert Singerman, organized the purchase of the complete inventory of Bernard Morgenstern’s Yiddish book-store on New York’s Lower East Side. The new Judaica Library was formally named for Isser and Rae Price of Jacksonville in March 1981 by their sons, Samuel and Jack Price, who established a generous endowment fund in their honor to support the Library’s sustained development. Thanks to the Price family’s ongoing support, and the support of other friends, the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica Library has gone from strength to strength. Today, patrons at UF and around the world can benefit from its wide-ranging collections, which comprise over 120,000 volumes, DVDs, microfilms, newspapers, pamphlets, archives and manuscripts in 45 different languages pertaining to the Jewish experience in over 50 countries around the world.
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 “3-M” collections were officially dedicated as The Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica in March 1981.Over the past 30 years, the Price Library of Judaica has gone from strength to strength. Scholarly book collections donated by such notable academics as Theodore Gaster, Avraham Balaban and Judith Laikin Elkin have enriched the library, as well as the recent donation of an 18th-19th century working rabbinical library belonging to Rev. Hermann Doych, a refugee from Nazi Germany. A small pamphlet collection amassed by award-winning journalist Ruth Gruber, and a large collection of scarce pamphlets acquired from Harvard University have likewise increased the depth of the Library’s research holdings.
After receiving a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant in 2014, the Price Library is also growing its collection of books, manuscripts and archives relating to and originating from the Jewish communities of Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. Thanks to collaborative digitization projects with institutions in Mexico, Argentina and Cuba the Library is helping preserve and provide global access to hard-to-find resources.Collection StrengthsThe Price Library of Judaica is particularly noteworthy for its concentration of scarce 19th- and 20th-century publications, which also include ephemeral booklets and newsletters, as well as special focus collections such as anniversary newspapers, Jewish calendars, Passover Haggadot, and Jewish cookbooks from around the world. Similarly, its range of periodicals and newspapers is superb. Many of the discontinued periodicals on the library shelves can no longer be found in Florida or its neighboring states; some titles are uniquely held by the library.In addition to an extensive Holocaust collection, which includes thousands of books, journals, a major database, and extensive collections of microfilm, the Library holds over nine hundred limited print, post-war memorial books commemorating the lost Jewish communities of Europe.
- 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.
Rich in resources that facilitate study and research in many disciplines, the Price Library of Judaica is a library without peer in the southeastern United States. In terms of its scarce 19th-20th century materials and other unique collections, the Price Library ranks among the top twenty academic libraries in the world. 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.