On Libraries: The Library of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester

I write this on Saturday, November 10, less than a week before I am to give a talk this coming Friday on the use of open technologies such as open-source to a group of librarians of the City University of New York.

Though I had originally planned to combine some material from my presentation to a group of k12 educations last May in Litchfield, CT, I have decided to prepare new content for this in the form of several posts about libraries and the custodians of our heritage, our librarians.

I recently wrote a post on my home away from home for most of my childhood , On Libraries: The Ernie Pyle Memorial Home/Library. I have also published a post on authority, authoritative opinions, and librarians, An Authoritative Opinion on Libraries and Authoritative Opinions.

I spent several hours this past Wednesday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art viewing some of the greatest works of art ever produced: three of the ten panels from the immortal Gates of Paradise. The panels on display are Adam and Eve, Jacob and Esau, and David and Goliath, respectively the top, middle, and bottom panels on the left door.

This my second visit to view the bronze relief sculptures within a week, yet I did not spend my entire time viewing the panels, for I had noticed on my first visit that the panels were on display in a room with the title, Watson Research Library. I thus spent an hour or so learning more about the role of the Watson Family — the founders of my employer, IBM — including a visit to two of the libraries in the Met and two conversations with some of the Met’s librarians. I hope to publish a post about that shortly.

I spent last night in the library of my synagogue, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester. Indeed, I spent the whole night there. For several years Temple Beth El (TBE) has participated as one of a group of churches and synagogues in my area who provide an ad hoc homeless shelter by taking turns providing food and a night’s lodging for some of our fellow citizens who happen to be homeless. The sponsoring organization commits to providing both dinner and a breakfast, and also some hosts to stay the night, not to guard the premises, but to represent the hosting congregation. My wife and I had done this once before, and volunteered to do it this year, and last night was our turn for this wintry season.

The evening was special in many ways, including a live concert by four musicians who played music by composers who either died in the Holocaust, or by the chance of fate, survived their time in the death camps, and lived on to write more music.

Last night was cold and wintry, with a chilling rain. I noted some flakes on snow of my car, the first snow I have seen this year. My wife, Karin, and I slept in the library, and when I went out from time to the central Sanctuary, I could hear the soft sound of rain failling our our Temple’s roof. But almost seventy years ago there was a much different sound of falling during much of Germany and Austria — the sound of shattered glass.

It was the anniversary of that “night of shattered glass,” Kristallnacht, that set this Sabbath apart from any other Sabbath this past year, as Kristallnacht was the the opening battle in the most one-sided war in history, The War Against The Jews.

Moreover, this night was not only the anniversary of the start of the war in November, 1938 — it happened to occur on a Friday.

Thus, Friday, November 9, 2007, was the tenth — or perhaps eleventh — Sabbath Kristallnacht.

I started writing about my night in a syngogue’s library on a Kristallnacht Sabbath shortly after midnight while sitting in the library. That writing can be found at the site of one of my other projects, the Rabbi Chaim Stern project.

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