History of the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica

Jack, Samuel and Rae Price look at books
Jack (left), Samuel (right) and Rae Price

The Price Library of Judaica was formally dedicated in March, 1981, to support the teaching and research missions of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Florida. The library is named for Isser and Rae Price, whose sons, Samuel and Jack Price of Jacksonville, Florida, established a fund in support of the library.

The Price Library’s core collection is the Mishkin Library from Chicago, Illinois. While he was a professor of Jewish history at the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago, Rabbi Leonard C. Mishkin (1922-1996) had amassed in his home c. 40,000 volumes covering virtually every area of scholarship and in a wide variety of languages. At the time it was purchased in 1977, Mishkin’s collection was the largest and best private library of Judaica and Hebraica in the United States.

about Rabbi Leonard c. Mishkin

Oral History Excerpt

Chicago Jewish History, vol.21, no. 8, 1997, pp. 13-15

Leonard Mishkin discussing Jewish education

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. In the mid-1980s, Theodor H. Gaster, biblical scholar and son of England’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Moses Gaster, donated books on the Ancient Near East and Dead Sea Scroll studies from his personal library.

The Price Library was expanded from 55,000 volumes housed initially in Smathers Library to a collection of over 85,000 by its librarian Robert Singerman with technical assistance from Yael Herbsman, Joy Funk, Carol Bird and Emily Madden. Located in Norman Hall from 1995, the Collection finally found a permanent home in Library West in 2006.

The Price Library at 30

Isser and Rae Price READ poster
Jack (seated) and Samuel Price, featured on the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica 30th Rededication Celebration, 2011 READ poster

In 1979, two University of Florida alumni, Samuel and Jack Price, gifted the burgeoning Judaica library with a $400,000 endowment, the largest bestowed on a special collection at the University of Florida, in honor of their parents, Isser and Rae Price. Isser and Rae Price were two outstanding members of the Jewish community who helped establish the Jacksonville Jewish Center in the 1920s.They raised their children with a deep commitment to the Jewish community, a love of philanthropy, and a profound sense of the importance of education.

During its first 30 years, Jack and Samuel Price continued to back the development of the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica. Their interest in this important educational resource inspired other generations of the Price family who are now lending their support to the Collection.

A special event to thank the Price family for their ongoing commitment to the Judaica library was held on March 6th, 2011 to coincide with the Library’s 30th anniversary. The program included music by the Klezmer Katz and a range of distinguished speakers, including the UF President, Bernie Machen.

Price Library of Judaica Torah Scroll
Price Library of Judaica Torah Scroll

The event also enabled the George A. Smathers libraries to officially accept the donation of a Torah scroll from the Price family and the Beth Shalom Synagogue in Jacksonville. The scroll was originally purchased by Rae Price and donated to the Beth Shalom synagogue in memory of her husband, Isser. According to the Machon Ot Institute, the scroll was originally produced in Russia in c. 1919. It was written in Chassidic Ari script on calf vellum and stands approximately 24” tall, with each column consisting of 42 lines.

The closure of the Beth Shalom synagogue in 2011, however, necessitated a decision about the future of the scroll. Thanks to encouragement from Isser and Rae’s children (Eunice, Florence, Jack and Samuel) together with their spouses, the Synagogue Board members agreed to allow the family to donate the Torah scroll to the Price Library of Judaica. This precious 103-year-old scroll is now kept in the Judaica Suite displayed in a bespoke Torah ark designed by Kenneth Treister.

The Price Library at 40

Front cover of 40 Years booklet