[Narrator 1:] Probably no one in Oklahoma today better exemplifies the Jewish concepts of social responsibility and humanitarianism than Alfred Aaronson. As the son of a Hebrew scholar, Aaronson grew up with a strong sense of social duty and justice which charted the course of his life to one of serving his community and its people. The dedication of this one man has enhanced the image of Oklahoma.
[Narrator 2:]They came to Oklahoma from many nations. Newcomers to a new land, looking for better opportunities, a chance to begin again and what remains is their heritage. A rich heritage, that has become the Oklahoma image.
[Narrator 1:] Alfred Aaronson was 20 when he came to Tulsa in 1913. Very quickly, he became a highly successful business man and began to give of his creative efforts and money to every worthwhile cause in the Jewish and general communities. He was a founder of the first synagogue building in Tulsa. He spearheaded the successful campaign to save the famous Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art. He was also the driving force in the plans and negotiations which resulted in Tulsa's magnificent Civic Center Complex. Of all his accomplishments, Aaronson is most proud of the Tulsa City-County Library. It was his vision, wisdom and untiring efforts which made the library possible, a library which serves as a model for others across the country.
[Narrator 1:] Aaronson believed strongly in the importance of a library to a community. So strongly, that he once said:
[Narrator 3:] [quoting Aaronson] Libraries are designed to keep us from dying. The city, the church or a school without an adequate collection of books is only half alive. The library is not only for the learned and the scholarly. It's literally for everybody, adult and child and every walk of life and at every level of education.
[Narrator 1:] To show Tulsa's great debt of gratitude, the library's auditorium was named for Aaronson. A collection of 500 books selected and obtained by his friends on the subject dearest to his heart was designated the Alfred Aaronson Human Relations Collection. Aaronson recognized the need for good human relations within a community and worked very hard in his commitment to individual freedom for all people. As a charter member of the Tulsa Community Relations Commission, he fought for the passage of a public accomodations ordinance which outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin. Although he knew that this would be an unpopular stance, he believed that if all Americans were not free than no one could be safe. Aaronson would sum up his intense feeling about social justice by saying:
[Narrator 3:] [quoting Aaronson] People pray in different languages, as birds sing different songs. All are music to God's ears as long as each sings his own song.
[Narrator 1:] As a charter member of the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, Aaronson assisted in the creation and the development of the Southwest Center for Human Relation Studies at the University of Okahoma. He served for years as an active member of the Executive Committee of the Center and is a lifetime member of that committee. He has spent much of his efforts the past few years toward establishing an academic chair in human rights at the university.
[Narrator 1:] Many honors have been bestowed upon Aaronson, among the most prestigious being the Community Service Award, the highest award of the Tulsa Lodge of Benai Berith. Aaronson was also inducted in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, an honor reserved for a special few of the state's citizens. The life of Alfred Aaronson reflects love and devotion to all people. He has surely lived by his words:
[Narrator 3:] [quoting Aaronson] To be able to serve, is truly a gift of God.
[Narrator 2:] This program was produced by the Oklahoma Image Project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and brought to you as a public service by this station. Oklahoma Image is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Oklahoma Library Association.
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Part of the Oklahoma Image Statewide Humanities Project, promoting Newcomers to a New Land book series and the Oklahoma Image Project.
Copyright of this digital resource, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 2008. For further information regarding use please consult the Rights and Permissions page, http://www.crossroads.odl.state.ok.us/shell/rights.php or contact the holding institution of the digital resource.
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