Fan and Hyman Jacobs Library

The Fan and Hyman Jacobs Library is a treasure trove hidden in plain sight, just a few steps off the main floor of Oheb Shalom. 

With over 5,000 items, there is something for everyone.  Books on philosophy, biography, history, and holidays fill the shelves.  The fiction, selected for all age levels, includes both modern and classic works by Jewish and Israeli authors.  There are special areas for graphic novels and for parenting advice.  A collection of DVDs is growing. 

Borrowing is simple, and there is never a late fee.  The catalog is available online.  Our librarian, Aileen Grossberg, is on site Sunday and Wednesday mornings, but you are welcome any time. 

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Oheb Shalom Online Catalog

THIS WEEK'S Message From Our Librarian

A Love Song to America

Elections are over. Maybe we will be able to settle down to some bi-partisanship and enjoy the blessings of democracy.

Ironically 2018 marks the 100th birthday of the writing of an iconic patriotic American song. Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” was written in 1918 while Berlin was a soldier at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York.

Berlin who came to America at aged five with his family was newly naturalized in February 2018. Soon after, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.  Already a successful song writer, he wrote “God Bless America” for an Army show. The song did not appear in that show but as war loomed in Europe in 1938, Berlin revised the song and asked Kate Smith to sing it.

On November 10, 1938,  the new  “God Bless America” debuted on Kate Smith’s radio show on the eve of  the first official celebration of Armistice Day marking the end of World War I on November 11. Armistice Day is now known as Veterans’ Day. Hear Smith sing the song so closely identified with her.

The song proved divisive. Some felt that Berlin as an immigrant had no right to compose such a song. Woody Guthrie thought that it was overly optimistic, overlooking the poverty that affected millions in the 1930s.

Over the years the song has been coopted by racists and the militant right although it still has a place in the hearts of millions who are neither racist nor extremists. It was sung by civil rights activists and has been proposed as our national anthem as it is easy to sing and the lyrics are uncomplicated.

However one views the song, it began as a tribute to this country from a man not born here but who was given opportunity and used that opportunity to achieve great success. It’s Berlin’s” love song to this country from an immigrant grateful to have been given a chance at a new life.”(NYT, 7/2/18)

Berlin never made money from the song. He established the God Bless America Fund which assigned all profits to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. This arrangement continues today.

For further reading:

For adult readers:

Barrett            Irving Berlin: a daughter’s memoir looks back on growing up in a privileged household with a creative father.

Hamm             Irving Berlin: songs from the melting pot: the formative years, 1907-1914 is a detailed look at Berlin’s early years when he wrote such songs as” Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

Jablonski        Irving Berlin: American Troubadour is” a moving tribute to a streetwise Broadway bard who seemingly instinctively created great popular art”. Includes a listing of all Berlin’s songs and a discography.

For younger readers:

Berlin              God Bless America with illustrations by Lynn Munsinger shows a bear dad and two cubs travelling from the mountains to the prairies to New York City and then home.  Includes a CD.

Chernin          Irving Berlin: the immigrant boy who made America sing is a tribute to Berlin’s love of America. Readers will have fun tracing Berlin’s red scarf across the pages.

Kimmelman   Write On, Irving Berlin lets readers get to know the songwriter and what his music has meant to America.

Streissguth     Say It with Music: a story about Irving Berlin is both Berlin’s personal story and a story of the immigrant experience.


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

Librarian Hours: Wednesdays & Sundays from 9 am to 12 pm. The library is open daily.