Meet the organizations behind Jewish American Heritage Month
More than 120 organizations around the country are involved in Jewish American Heritage Month this year. The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum in Philadelphia, leads this effort, and directors from several Jewish historical and cultural organizations make up the JAHM Coalition.
Root Source's mission is to empower Christians and Jews to engage with each other, which aligns with celebrating the diversity of the United States with a focus on Jews and Jewish culture—the stated theme of JAHM. The more people learn about each other, the more they will respect and like each other, and that is really the basis of the American Way. – Gidon Ariel, Executive Director of Root Source and Givebutter Fundraiser
A brief history of Jewish American Heritage Month
Jewish American Heritage Month began after inspiring and successful celebrations for the 350th Anniversary of the first Jewish refugees, who arrived on American soil in 1654. Observed for an entire year—from September 2004 to September 2005—the commemoration included exhibits at the Library of Congress and the American Jewish Historical Society. The U.S. designated May as Jewish American Heritage Month the following year.
President George W. Bush recognized the month after resolutions introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and the late Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania passed unanimously in the House and Senate. Proclaimed annually by every sitting President since, JAHM acknowledges, honors, and raises awareness of Jewish people's contributions to American culture.
JAHM is an opportunity for Jewish people to delve deeper into their resilient heritage and a chance for non-Jews to learn about their Jewish compatriots. It is a time to explore an area of cultural and religious diversity and actively combat racism and anti-Semitism. Regardless of background or religious beliefs, there are several relevant, creative ways to participate.
How to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month
Here are a few meaningful ways you can celebrate and honor American Jewish heritage this May and beyond:
- Start a fundraising campaign to benefit a local or national Jewish organization or another nonprofit working to promote diversity, equality, and civil liberties. Most metropolitan areas have networks of Jewish nonprofits, and many of them even serve the community at large, not just exclusively Jewish interests.
- Find a Holocaust museum or memorial in your area to visit. As George Santayana famously said, "Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it."
- Read a Jewish book.
- Watch the PBS special, The Jewish Americans Part 1, 2 & 3.
- Cook something Jewish, like a loaf of challah, brisket, or matzah ball soup.
- Make an appointment with a Jewish clergy member to learn more about Jewish history, culture, holidays, and traditions, or attend a Shabbat service at a local synagogue.
- Explore other events and resources on the official JAHM website