Smathers Libraries at UF receive $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant Award

Published: January 12 2015

Category:InsideUF, Note This, Awards & Honors

One of 16 awarded nationally, the grant will support efforts to raise an endowment to preserve and provide access to hidden and endangered Jewish heritage materials

The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries have received a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant of $500,000 to build an endowment fund that will broaden access to humanities resources relating to the Jewish experience in Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. The matching award provides a $1 match for every $3 raised.

The NEH Challenge Grant project, “Repositioning Florida’s Judaica Library,” will raise $1.5 million in matching funds to enable the creation of the Endowment for Resources on Jewish Heritage in Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean in support of strategic acquisitions, digital collection building, outreach programs and research. Judith Russell, dean of University Libraries, and Rebecca Jefferson, head of the Price Library of Judaica, are leading the effort.

“We are excited to be at the forefront of a project that will transform our knowledge about the Jewish people of this region and greatly inform many other disciplines within the humanities,” Russell said.

UF alumnus and Miami entrepreneur Gary R. Gerson, who provided the first funds to build the endowment, said he feels certain the Jewish community “will be interested in preserving the history of diasporic influences made by Jewish people transplanted to Florida.”

The NEH Challenge Grant represents a second historic award for the Libraries. The first was in 1977, when the NEH inaugurated the program for the purchase of books and materials that established the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica. Today, the Price Library is recognized as the best Jewish Studies research collection in the southeastern United States.

This second award of $500,000 recognizes that with the Price Library as its foundation, the University of Florida is singularly well-suited to lead a new national and international effort to acquire resources that will promote and support greater study of the Jewish diaspora in the region.


Writer: Donna Winchester
Source: Judith Russell, 352-273-2505,

Category:InsideUF, Note This, Awards & Honors