Wednesday, July 4, 2012

God Bless America: A Jewish Gift to Our Nation


In 1918 a 30-year-old Russian Jewish immigrant named Israel Isidore Baline wrote a song for a musical show but pulled it before the show opened. It sat on a shelf for twenty years before the songwriter, now named Irving Berlin, decided to revise it. That year it was introduced to the American public by singer Kate Smith on her radio show.

The song, God Bless America, written as a solemn prayer, became an instant hit. The introductory verses, sung by Kate Smith in 1938, are seldom heard today. They are:

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

One of Berlin's revisions was to replace the original line "Stand beside her and guide her to the right with a light from above" with "Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above." The story goes that Berlin was concerned that the original lyrics might be construed as a call to the political right. 

Today the Jewish immigrant's song will probably be heard "from sea to shining sea," to borrow a phrase from America the Beautiful, another American hymn which will be sung together with The Star Spangled Banner" to round out Independence Day tributes to what writer and talk show host Michael Medved calls "the greatest nation on God's green earth."

In the video below, we show Kate Smith introducing "God Bless America" on her 1938 radio show.  Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)