Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
10
I note that the Jewish Book Council of America has set forth
eight minimum requirements which must be met by any com-
munal library if it wishes to be accorded a “Citation of Merit”
from the Council. I would urge and underline a ninth require-
ment: that a fair proportion of its books be read to shreds.
The Purpose of a Library
The purpose of a library is to be used; a library without
readers, especially zealous readers, is just a cut above a library
that doesn’t exist. Regretfully, the analogous stricture need not
be true of a modern synagogue. A new and luxurious structure
fitted out in the latest style, with sliding partitions, a bizarre
self-opening ark, a
Ner Tamid
hard to tell from a futuristic
“mobile,” and slit-panel windows draped like the show room of a
grand couturier,
will be an eye-catching advertisement for
Judaism, a credit to the town, and will set up the morale of the
Jewish community, even if it remains practically empty save for
the high holidays and the annual UJA dinner.
A handsome, well-appointed, well-stocked library will not do
the same trick. There is no public prestige or morale-boosting to
be gained from the mere presence of a collection of books. A
Jewish communal library has, we must keep in mind, a unique
function of its own in relation to the community it serves. As
things stand today, every Jewish community must look upon it-
self as a reservoir of forces devoted to the cultivation, enrich-
ment and survival of Jewish life. Conceivably, it may not be a
large reservoir, but it will be deep, and it will be fed by un-
failing springs. These springs, I need hardly say, well up from
within the books which contain the ever-living waters, the
Mayim
Hayim,
of the Jewish tradition. Only to the degree that these
waters are regularly imbibed by the individual members of our
local communities will Jewish life thrive in America.
Some of us may feel too preoccupied, too old, intellectually too
lazy or flabby, to resort in a serious way to Jewish learning. But
fortunately, what we cannot always do ourselves we may induce
our children to do—or else mankind would still be living in caves.
Our children at least must be given, through the instrument of
communal libraries and kindred institutions, a thorough, inten-
sive Jewish education. By this I do not mean that we should fob
off on our youngsters the obligations we shrink from taking upon
ourselves. If the parents do not participate in acquiring or deep-
ening their own Jewish education, the children, we may be al-
most sure, will have none of it, or will quickly discard what
smattering they may have been led or compelled to learn. I
would say to all Jewish parents: “Sit down and, if you do not
know it, learn Hebrew with your children, and Jewish his-
tory and literature; and if they outstrip you, nobody loses and