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Nathan Snyder

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Nathan Snyder Obituary
As a University of Texas librarian, Nathan Snyder lived a quiet life. Never married and an only child of deceased parents, his true love became books, and for the last 27 years, his obsession with building one of the most renowned Judaic collections in the United States consumed him. He worked as a bibliographer and cataloguer at the Perry-Castañeda Library, the main library on UT's campus. The Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies at UT dedicated a library to him in May — the Nathan I. Snyder Library. Snyder created an endowment of his personal collection of books and documents, worth between $15,000 and $20,000, which is at the center. Snyder died of a brain tumor Sunday. He was 65. Robert Abzug, a UT history professor and the director of the Schusterman Center, said Snyder single-handedly built up a collection of books used by Jewish studies scholars around the world. "It's fair to say he helped create one of the most remarkable collections of Jewish studies at any public university in the United States," Abzug said. Robert King, a UT linguistics centennial professor, said Snyder was shy and eccentric and lived for his work. King said Snyder toiled to build the library's collection — one of his biggest additions was a rare copy of the Torah from Czechoslovakia — and often stayed at the library until 8 p.m. and worked weekends. Seth Wolitz, who holds the Marie and Edwin Gale Chair of Judaic Studies at UT, knew Snyder for 25 years and said he was obsessed with the Holocaust and the destruction of the history of the Jewish people. Wolitz said Snyder immersed himself in this work, making him a lonely man. "Nathan Snyder was a sweet human being and a very kind man — a man who was extremely erudite. At the same time, he was a man with very poor knowledge of the world and the social structures of life," Wolitz said. Snyder kept kosher and respected all the Jewish laws but was an atheist, Wolitz said. He was born in Boston to Eastern European immigrants and studied with a rabbi until he was 16. He received degrees in classical Greek from Boston University and earned degrees from Beth Jacobs Hebrew Teachers College and Yeshiva University, both in New York City, and Dropsie University in Philadelphia. He was a librarian at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago before coming to UT. Snyder was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2007 and underwent surgery and radiation, and friends said he never recovered from the treatments. "When he was ill, he looked upon his experience in life. Life was so hard, so difficult," Wolitz said. "He tried to live his life the best he could. He was very loyal to his friends and extremely generous." Funeral services will be Thursday in Sharon, Mass.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Oct. 26 to Nov. 13, 2009
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