Above Image: Excerpt from Sara Berman’s Closet. HarperCollins, 2018.
History of JAHM
On April 20, 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed that May would be Jewish American Heritage Month. The announcement was the crowning achievement in an effort by the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida Jewish community leaders that resulted in resolutions introduced by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania urging the president to proclaim a month that would recognize the history of Jewish contributions to American culture. The resolutions passed unanimously, first in the House of Representatives in December 2005 and later in the Senate in February 2006.
Since 2006, JAHM programs have taken place across the country. In Washington, D.C. alone, the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have joined in raising national consciousness about the contributions of Jewish Americans to our country's heritage.
The JAHM Coalition was formed in March 2007 and convened by United Jewish Communities (now The Jewish Federations of North America), The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) and the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). The JAHM Coalition was composed of the directors of major national Jewish historical and cultural organizations including the AJA, AJHS, Jewish Women's Archive, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Council of American Jewish Museums, Jewish Museum of Florida, and the Jewish Historical Society of Washington, D.C. In the fall of 2010 JAHM incorporated as a tax exempt public charity with a Board of Directors and oversight by the JAHM Advisory Committee.
In 2018, the National Museum of American Jewish History became the home of JAHM. Located on historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia, PA, NMAJH is the country’s only institution dedicated to telling the story of American history through the lens of the Jewish experience. Its mission to present educational programs and experiences that preserve, explore, and celebrate the more than 360-year history of Jews in America serves JAHM’s broader mission to promote education about the American Jewish community's contributions to the history, heritage, and culture of the United States.
NMAJH and JAHM work to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and inspires in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American Jewish experience and the freedoms to which all Americans aspire.
As we observe Jewish American Heritage Month, our Nation celebrates nearly 4,000 years of Jewish history and honors the numerous contributions of Jewish Americans to our country and the world. Rabbi Akiva, a great Jewish scholar, declared that a central principle of the Torah is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Jewish Americans have repeatedly demonstrated their dedication to this commandment, helping the downtrodden and pursue justice, sanctifying the name of God, and embodying the best of America.
During a Jewish wedding ceremony, it is customary for the newlywed couple to shatter a glass. This longstanding tradition commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and symbolizes that even during times of heightened joy, one should remember the painful losses Jews suffered throughout history. In the same way, all Americans bear a moral responsibility to stand alongside our Jewish communities and learn the lessons of tolerance that run through the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people — both long ago and, sadly, in recent times. Reflecting on these events steels our resolve that they never happen again.
Unconscionably, rates of anti-Semitic hate crimes have risen globally, and Jewish institutions have been vandalized and violently attacked. This past October, we mourned alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters following the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in which 11 worshippers were killed, making it the deadliest attack against Jews in American history. Then, on the sixth-month anniversary of that horrific attack and on the last day of Passover, we grieved as the Chabad of Poway Synagogue was the target of yet another act of anti-Semitic violence, in which one worshipper lost her life and three others were wounded. As Americans, we unequivocally condemn the pernicious, baseless hatred that is anti-Semitism.
Our American tradition compels us to reject the source of anti-Semitism. Following the Revolutionary War, the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island, was unsure if the new American Government would grant them equal rights, given the persecution and expulsion the Jewish people had faced in so many times and in so many places. In response, George Washington penned his famous 1790 letter to the members of Newport’s Touro Synagogue, reassuring American Jews that, in the United States, their religious liberty would be protected. He further invoked the prophet Micah, hoping that the “Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Since then, the unique American promise of religious liberty for people of all faiths has remained a proud hallmark of our Republic.
Today, we recognize the resilience of the Jewish community in the face of great adversity and celebrate the countless ways Jewish Americans have strengthened our Nation. We echo the words of President Washington and Rabbi Akiva and stand in solidarity with our American Jewish neighbors as we reaffirm our commitment to combat all forms of hate and anti-Semitism.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2019 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon Americans to celebrate the heritage and contributions of American Jews and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.
DONALD J. TRUMP
Jewish American Heritage Celebration on Capitol Hill:
In the News
Board of Directors
Greg Rosenbaum, President of Palisades Associates, Inc.
Marcia Jo Zerivitz, LHD, Founding Executive Director, Jewish Museum of Florida-Florida International University
Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
Ivy L. Barsky, Chief Executive Officer and Gwen Goodman Director, National Museum of American Jewish History
Kara Blond, Executive Director, Capital Jewish Museum
Shelley Rood, Senior Legislative Associate and AJFCA Washington Director at The Jewish Federations of North America
Judith Rosenbaum, Ph.D, Executive Director, Jewish Women's Archive
Abby S. Schwartz, Director, Skirball Museum in Cincinnati
Mel Wacks, Director of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame Division of the American Jewish Historical Society
Melissa Martens Yaverbaum, Executive Director at the Council of American Jewish Museums
Senator Arlen Specter, z”l
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Founding Corporate Sponsor
Top Image: Excerpt from Sara Berman’s Closet. Harper Collins, 2018.