The Reverend Benjamin Safer Digital Collection contains sermonettes, correspondence, photographs, and other items, including materials relating to the wider Jacksonville Jewish Community.
The Rev. Benjamin Safer was the first Rabbi to the orthodox Jewish community of Jacksonville, Florida. Born and raised in Lithuania, the son of a learned scholar and scribe, Benjamin Safer moved to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century at the request of the Jacksonville community. In addition to his rabbinical duties, Safer also acted as the community cantor, kosher butcher and mohel. Benjamin Safer's mohel knife can be viewed at the Jewish Museum of Florida.
Assembled here is a collection of Benjamin Safer’s writings, including personal letters, notebooks (pinkasim) jottings and sermonettes. The sermonettes are particularly interesting due to the fact that Safer used the Hebrew alphabet to write down the English speeches that he delivered to the community. By writing English in Hebrew characters, Safer was able to ensure that he could read and remember his thoughts with confidence. Safer’s notebooks (pinkasim) contain lexicographical entries written in English, English in Hebrew script and Yiddish, and they reveal his endeavors to elevate his knowledge of English. These notebooks and sermonettes not only provide a glimpse into the life of a Jewish immigrant in America, they are also linguistically fascinating and will facilitate further research into Jewish languages and language acquisition. Of additional interest to researchers of Yiddish will be Safer’s personal correspondence.
The Rev. Benjamin Safer collection also includes two unpublished monographs. The first is “Letters from Papa” by Edwin Safer and Stacey Goldring, which charts the life of the Rev. Benjamin Safer through letters, documents and photographs. The second is “The Dibobes Family” by Edwin Safer, a history of the family from which Benjamin Safer descended and its many branches in Lithuania and America; it includes photographs, maps, timelines, documents and genealogical charts. Both works constitute an important historical resource for researchers of Jewish life in Eastern Europe and the United States, particularly Florida Jewry, in the 19th and 20th centuries.
This superb collection has been donated to the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica by Rev. Benjamin Safer’s grandson, Dr Edwin Safer, a former alumnus of the University of Florida. Researchers wishing to consult these materials should refer to the online finding aid for the collection. Additional materials relating to Jacksonville, donated by Bruce and Stacey Goldring, can be consulted in the Jewish Jacksonville Collection. Items from both collections were featured in an exhibition in 2012.