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Finding that Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver's poem "America" had been elaborately printed and that re-reading of some anthologies revealed other poems, led to the creation of this "Poetry" page.
Arnold Berger  February 2019


We found Abba Hillel Silver's patriotic poem America in searches many years ago, first in the American Heritage Library. It was also on the website of the 2000 presidential campaign of conservative Republican Pat Buchanan.

God built Him a continent of glory and filled it with treasures untold;
He carpeted it with soft-rolling plains, and columned it with thundering mountains;
He studded it with sweet-flowing fountains, and traced it with long-winding streams;
He planted it with deep-shadowed forests, and filled them with song.

Then He called unto a thousand peoples and summoned the bravest among them.
They came from the ends of the earth, each bearing a gift and a hope.
The glow of adventure was in their eyes, and in their hearts the glory of hope.

And out of the bounty of earth and the labor of men,
Out of the longing of hearts and the prayers of souls,
Out of the memory of ages and the hopes of the world;
God fashioned a nation in love, blessed it with a purpose sublime

nd called it AMERICA.

A recent image search found the beautifully type-set copy of the poem shown below, noting copyright 1920, but with no mention of who had designed and printed it.

Searches of The Plain Dealer and our Jewish papers found no mention of its publication. The archives of The Temple - Tifereth Israel do not have it as formatted below.
A chronological listing of Abba Hillel Silver's writings, compiled by Temple librarian Miriam Leikind, appears in the book "In The Time of Harvest". It shows (on page 101) that this poem was first published in the New York Times on August 17, 1923. We found it in the August 19th, 1923 Times, page XX10, titled A Definition of America with the author's name Rabbi Abba Silver. Our searches (on America and Abba Hillel Silver) did not find it. A search on "God built a continent of glory" found it easily.

The form of "America" changed

As shown above, the first publication of America was as prose, not as a poem.

Remove from the N Y Times version the first paragraph and the first three sentences of the second paragraph. What remains is the poem, starting with "God built a continent of glory"

The poem changed words and some phrases. As examples: "God built a continent" became "God built Him a continent"; "pillared it" became "columned it"; and "the labor of men and the bounty of earth" became "the bounty of earth and the labor of men".

Where did the poem originate?

A Plain Dealer search shows that he spoke on "Organizing for Service" at the annual dinner of the National Association of Purchasing Agents at the Hotel Statler on Thursday July 17, 1923.

He had published poetry as a student at the University of Cincinnati and may have written "America" long before his talk in 1923.

"America" and The Temple

Printed on a card shown at the left, "America" was found in the archives of The Temple - Tifereth Israel. About 4 x 7 inches, it could be mailed in a business envelope. We hope to learn when the cards were printed and how they were distributed.

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