Repositioning Florida's Judaica Library: Increasing Access to Humanities Resources from Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean Communities.
The Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica was awarded a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant in 2014. The grant, one of just 16 conferred nationally at the maximum amount ($500,000), required the Library to raise $1.5 million in matching funds according to a schedule of annual goals.
The Challenge Grant project team raised $1,475,218. This success was due to the overwhelming generosity of 242 individuals and five matching foundation grants. Matching funds totaling $470,957 were received from the National Endowment for the Humanities. See the cards below for descriptions of some of the project outcomes.
The Jewish Diaspora Collection (JDoC) was created to provide free, global access to hidden and/or endangered Jewish materials from Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. Thanks to the NEH Challenge Grant, the collection, part of the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC) now comprises 20,360 items amounting to over 350,000 pages of content.
Approximately 16,000 books from or about Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean have been purchased or donated as a result of the NEH grant. These include many books that are either rare, scarce or endangered. For example, the Library purchased 247 boxes of books from the Jewish community of Montevideo, Uruguay, including works published by the community’s own Yiddish press.
The NEH grant project resulted in many unique items being added to the Judaica collection. For example, this superbly produced deluxe album presented by the Argentine Jewish community to the retiring Director of the Immigration Authority, Dr Juan Antonio Alsina in 1910. The album contains 1,052 legible autograph signatures of Russian Jewish immigrants especially collected for the occasion The front cover is decorated with an elaborate chased brass floral ornament.
A three-year partnership with El Centro de Documentación e Investigación Judío de México was established by NEH project team members to engage in mutually beneficial digitization projects. The partnership enabled thousands of perviously hidden issues of Jewish periodicals to be scanned in Mexico and made freely and globally accessible online through the Digital Library of the Caribbean and JDoC.
NEH project team members established an ongoing digital collaboration with the Asociación Civil, Social y Cultural TZAVTA – JUNTOS (Tzavta) in Buenos Aires, as well as with their partner organizations, like the Idisher Cultural Farband. These collaborative efforts are enabling global access to thousands of previously unseen Argentinian periodicals, archives and ephemera.
A partnership was established between the George A. Smathers Libraries and la Comunidad Hebrea de Cuba to digitize the holdings of their historic synagogue library (la Biblioteca) by sending students to film the materials onsite. A website dedicated to Cuban Judaica was created which now holds 235 items with over 30,000 pages of content.
The NEH Challenge Grant project resulted in the purchase or donation of seventeen archival collections, including a collection of over 900 letters from world-famous figures responding to an Argentinian survey on antisemitism.
A unique collaboration with the Jacksonville Jewish Center is helping restore their historical archive and provide online access to their historic documents. A Libraries’ student internship was created to re-organize the archive and identify materials for digitization. The online archive now contains the Center bulletins and newsletters and some select documents pertaining to the Center’s history
In partnership with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, the Price Library of Judaica recorded and collected interviews with eight individuals from Florida and Latin America and transcribed and translated over 40 interviews from El Salvador.
The grant team took 30 outreach programs on the road; the Judaica Library hosted five bus tours, and hundreds of individuals visited the Judaica Suite during the period of the grant. The team created unique programs to generate awareness about the importance of collecting, preserving and sharing family stories: programs such as “Jewish Heritage Days” and “Composing a Heart and Other Jewish Immigrant Stories”
A partnership with the Alexander Grass Chair in Jewish studies, and the Center for Latin American Studies, enabled the Price Library of Judaica to create a one year visiting fellowship and speaker series “Jews in the Americas,” and to co-sponsor the Center for Latin American Studies 68th Annual Conference: “Jews and the Americas.” A book of essays inspired by the conference will be published this year, edited by Katalin Franciska Rac and Lenny A. Ureña Valerio: Jewish Experiences Across the Americas: Local Histories through Global Lenses, University of Florida Press.
NEH Challenge Grant project team members presented their work at numerous conferences and published articles, book chapters, and a volume of edited essays. For example, see: ‘Shared Global Heritage in Research Libraries’ by Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, Elizabeth Haven Hawley, and Rebecca J. W. Jefferson in The Globalized Library: American Academic Libraries and International Students, Collections, and Practices, edited by Yelena Luckert and Lindsay Inge Carpenter, ALA Editions, 2018, 223-38.