By monsey.com Staff
Finkelstein Memorial Library held a centennial celebration at the Finkelstein Library in Spring Valley on Sunday, April 23. The library’s 100th anniversary, which was open to the public, included an afternoon filled with memories, music and refreshments as well as a presentation of the American flag by Cub Scout Pack 164 while the Girls Scouts, Haverstraw Minisceongo Service Unit, led the Pledge of Allegiance. The celebration was meant to serve as a recreation of the day the library first opened, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. David Hershkowitz, president of the board of trustees, offered greeting to attendees, which included Mrs. Rena Finkelstein, president of the Friends of the Library; Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder; New York State Senator David Carlucci; New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee; and Rockland County Supervisor Ed Day, among many others.
According to Mrs. Rena Finkelstein, the original library was founded in 1917 by a group of citizens headed by local dentist Dr. Sam Berg, cousin of Joseph. N. Finkelstein. The library had been located in a succession of stores on Main Street. The first quarters were in a room next to a millinery shop. When someone came into the library, the hatmaker, Mrs. Scott, would leave her customers and go next door to take care of the library “customers.” The Spring Valley Free Library, as it was known, moved frequently, using whatever store they could get gratis until it was rented to a paying tenant, and struggled to survive on contributions and small fundraisers like bake sales.
Mrs. Finkelstein’s husband’s grandfather, Joseph Nathan Finkelstein, established his home on Funston Avenue in Spring Valley in 1914 and soon became deeply involved in civic affairs and local philanthropy. All the family members were brought up in the traditions of community service and the importance of learning and the printed word. After Nathan’s death in 1938, his wife Sarah and four sons—Abraham, Robert, Jack and Charles—decided to establish a memorial to him. In 1941, the Finkelstein family erected and furnished a stately one-room building for the library at the corner of South Madison Avenue and Route 59 in memory of Joseph’s passing. The original building is now the library’s Founder’s Room, which retains features such as the detailed wooden panels and chandeliers from its origins.
Finkelstein has expanding quite a bit over the years since its original construction. In 1960, it added a children’s room, followed by a 29,000-square-foot addition in 1987 and a circulation desk and an open lobby in 2015. The library is now funded by taxpayers, with a budget topping $8 million. After starting with only 48 books, the library has increased the circulation of its books and other media to over 268,000. Finkelstein’s collection now encompasses a large number of Jewish books including fiction, nonfiction and books on CD, DVDs and Jewish music CDs. The library also has a computer station dedicated to the use of Otzar HaChochma located on the second floor. Otzar HaChochma is a digital library containing more than 76,000 Judaic books, scanned in their original format. Access to the Yiddish Book Center, which offers free online access to the full texts of nearly 11,000 out-of-print Yiddish titles, is also available. The library is a member of the Yiddish Book Center as well.
Today, the Finkelstein Memorial Library is much more than just a library of over 100,000 patrons representing a kaleidoscope of cultures. The library does its utmost to reflect the community it serves, offering its website in a host of different languages including Hebrew. It is also a place for citizenship classes, ESL classes, job-training sessions, technology and homework help, speakers and cultural events.
During the course of their centennial year, the library will be hosting other events as well, including a Finkelstein Night at the Palisades Credit Union Park, a golf outing, car wash, apple picking and many other activities, details of which will be made available at www.http://finkelsteinlibrary.org/.