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. 

View website
Oheb Shalom Online Catalog

THIS WEEK'S Message From Our Librarian

Women Who Made History

Laurel Ulrich, a historian of early America and not Jewish said, “Women who behave rarely make history,”

As we approach the end of March, Women’s History Month, and move towards the onset of Passover, it’s appropriate to highlight some of the unsung women of the Passover story and beyond-those women who helps to free the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus and later brought greater freedom to women and people in general. And who didn’t behave as they were expected to.

How many of us know the names of the midwives who assisted Yocheved, Moses’s mother,  when she gave birth to her third child? Shiphrah and Puah risked their lives in letting the infant survive.

Having this child at all was a brave decision as Yocheved knew that if the child was a boy, he was destined for death. Midrash tells that it was Miriam, Moses’s sister who convinced her parents that they should not put off having more children.

And it was Miriam, as we know from the story,,who watched the baby as he slept in his waterproof basket floating in the Nile. And it was Miriam who suggested to the Egyptian princess that a Hebrew woman be engaged as a wetnurse.

Later it was through Miriam that the Israelites had a constant source of water during the forty years of wandering. When Miriam died; that source of water died with her.

Then there’s Deborah who appointed Barak to command the army against the Canaanites led by Sisera. He refuses to undertake the command unless she goes with him. She does, taking the glory of victory away from Barak.

Skipping forward to more modern times, we find women such as Rebecca Zerline-that’s Dr. Rebecca Zerline-perhaps the first woman physician. She practiced in Frankfurt, Germany in the 1430s.                                                    

Gracias Mendes Nasi was a sixteenth century businesswoman who, among other accomplishments, developed an escape route for converses from Spain.

Golda Meir, Henrietta Szold, Emma Goldman are probably familiar names, as is that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only the second woman to serve on he Supreme Court. But what about the following women who were firsts in their fields or who accomplishments bettered the world.

Rabbi Regina Jonas was the first woman rabbi. Ordained privately in Berlin in 1935, she was murdered at Auschwitz in 1944.

Ruth Arnon synthesized a substance that activated the body’s immune system, developed a drug used by multiple sclerosis patients, and is working on a universal drug effective against influenza.

Lise Meitner, with Otto Hahn, led a group of physicists who discovered nuclear fission. This discovery led to the development of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which, in turn,  was the catalyst for ending World War II.He received a Nobel Prize in 1944. She did not.

One of the least likely Jewish women to make a lasting impact was the glamorous movie star, Austrian born Hedy Lamarr. During World War II, this brilliant woman, along with collaborator George Antheil,  developed a radio guidance system for torpedoes . This became to foundation of today’s location feature on cell phones.

Gertrude Elion, a biochemist in the pharmaceutical industry,  developed the first chemotherapy for childhood leukemia as well as the immunosuppressive drug AZT. Along with her research partner she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988.

There are hundreds of Jewish women who were outstanding in their fields from authors  such as Nadine Gordimer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991 to zoologists like Libbie Hyman, whose work on invertebrates is a standard reference.

Celebrate them an all women-famous and forgotten-not just in March but throughout the year.

The library is filled with books about these and other accomplished women.  Here is a sample.

Jewish Women in America: an historical encyclopedia

Bliski    Jewish Women and Their Salons: the power of conversation

Diner   Her Works Praise her: a history of Jewish Women in America from colonial times to the present

Felder  Fifty Jewish Women who Changed the World

Katz     A Voice Called: stories of Jewish heroines

Lehrer If We Could Hear them now: encounters with legendary Jewish heroines

Ross   Daughters of Eve: strong women of the Bible (J)

Taitz    JPS Guide to jewish Women: 600 B.C.E. to 1900 C.E.



Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

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