Jewish American Heritage Month

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Jewish American Heritage Month
President Obama welcomes guests to 2010 JAHM White House reception.
Observed by United States
Significance Annual recognition of Jewish American achievements and contributions to the United States.
Begins May 1
Ends May 31
Date May
Frequency annual

Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) is an annual recognition and celebration of Jewish American achievements in and contributions to the United States of America. It is observed annually in the U.S. during the month of May.[1]

JAHM was set into law by President George W. Bush in 2006, according to the Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition. This is the achievement of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), as well as the Jewish Museum of Florida and the South Florida Jewish Community.[2] A similar month exists in Florida as Florida Jewish History Month but it occurs in January.[3]


President George W. Bush announced that May would be Jewish American Heritage Month in April 2006. The announcement was an achievement in the effort of the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida Jewish Community leaders for a celebration of Jewish Americans and Jewish American Heritage.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) urged the president to proclaim a month that would recognize the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to America and the American culture. The resolutions were passed unanimously, first in the United States House of Representatives in December 2005 and later in the United States Senate in February 2006.[4]

The Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition states that, "JAHM also enables the exploration of the meaning of religious pluralism, cultural diversity, and participation in American civic culture."[5]

According to Library of Congress hosted website,, May was chosen as the month of Jewish American Heritage Month because of the successful 350th Anniversary Celebration of Jews in America.[6]

Celebration and recognition

Guests at 2010 White House reception for JAHM welcome President Obama. Pictured guests include Vice President Joseph Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Jewish baseball hero Sandy Koufax (center left), and entertainer/activist Theodore Bikel (center right).

Celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month is encouraged on a national level. In some schools, assemblies have been held in celebration.

JAHM has been recognized in Madison Square Garden in New York City. It has also been recognized in some Jewish museums. Additionally, some institutions, including the Library of Congress, have included shorter periods within the month for special lectures, programs, or displays, such as the Library of Congress "Jewish Heritage Week" lecture series.

2010 White House reception

On May 10, 2010, the White House issued a press release noting that on Thursday, May 27, 2010,

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the first ever White House reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. The reception serves as an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the range and depth of Jewish American heritage and contributions to American culture, with guests representing the many walks of life that have helped weave the fabric of American history. Invitees include a range of community leaders and prominent Jewish Americans from Olympians and professional athletes to members of Congress, business leaders, scholars, military veterans, and astronauts.

At the May 27, 2010, reception, President Obama welcomed the invited guests, which included "members of the House and Senate, two justices of the Supreme Court, Olympic athletes, entrepreneurs, Rabbinical scholars", and he made special mention of Sandy Koufax, famous in the Jewish community for refusing to play baseball on Yom Kippur. He praised "the diversity of talents and accomplishments" that the Jewish community had brought to the United States since pre-Revolutionary times, saying that, "Even before we were a nation, we were a sanctuary for Jews seeking to live without the specter of violence or exile," from the time "a band of 23 Jewish refugees to a place called New Amsterdam more than 350 years ago."[7][8]

2011 White House reception

File:JAHM 2011.jpg
President Obama welcomes Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel at the May 17, 2011 White House reception in honor of JAHM

President Obama scheduled a second White House reception in honor of JAHM for May 17, 2011.[9] The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported that it was "less formal than the inaugural one last year, with brief remarks and a small Marine Corps band playing klezmer music."[10] The President noted the presence, among others, of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, newly appointed as Chair of the Democratic National Committee.[10]

In his remarks, President Obama noted that Jewish Americans "persevered despite unspeakable discrimination and adversity at times."[11] Despite the challenges these American Jews faced, the President noted their achievements in "the arts, science, the military, business and industry, and in public and community service."[11] In his remarks, he said:

"This month is a chance for Americans of every faith to appreciate the contributions of the Jewish people throughout our history –- often in the face of unspeakable discrimination and adversity. For hundreds of years, Jewish Americans have fought heroically in battle and inspired us to pursue peace. They’ve built our cities, cured our sick. They’ve paved the way in the sciences and the law, in our politics and in the arts. They remain our leaders, our teachers, our neighbors and our friends.
Not bad for a band of believers who have been tested from the moment that they came together and professed their faith. The Jewish people have always persevered. And that’s why today is about celebrating the people in this room, the thousands who came before, the generations who will shape the future of our country and the future of the world."[12]

In addition, a Marine Corps band playing klezmer music, and the "Maccabeats," a Yeshiva University a cappella group, provided entertainment.[10]

2015 Presidential synagogue visit

In addition to signing the proclamation marking May 2015 as the annual Jewish American Heritage Month, the White House shared plans for an address by President Obama on May 22, 2015 at Adas Israel Congregation, a large Washington, D.C. synagogue.[13] The date of the visit coincides with “Solidarity Sabbath,” a Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice initiative asking world leaders to show support for the fight against anti-semitism.[13]

JAHM Coalition

Since 2006, JAHM programs have taken place across the country, but in March 2007 the JAHM Coalition was formed and convened by United Jewish Communities (now The Jewish Federations of North America), The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA), (AJA) and the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), to encourage and support future programs. The JAHM Coalition is composed of the directors of major national Jewish historical and cultural organizations including the AJA, AJHS, JWA, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM), Jewish Museum of Florida, and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. In 2009, the Coalition named a national coordinator.[14]

See also


  1. Krieger, Hilary Leila (May 31, 2008). "US Jews, Asian Americans learn to make merry in May together". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved January 5, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Reinhard, Beth (April 20, 2006). "Role of Jewish Americans to be recognized in May: Thanks to the efforts of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, President Bush is expected to make May Jewish American Heritage Month". Miami Herald (Miami, Florida). Retrieved January 5, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Sec. 683.195 Fla. Stat (2013).
  4. "May designated Jewish American Heritage Month, April 20, 2006". Retrieved May 8, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Jewish American Heritage Month home page". Retrieved June 25, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Jewish American Heritage Month". U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved June 25, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Knoller, Mark (May 27, 2010). "Obama Honors Jewish Americans at White House Reception – Political Hotsheet". CBS News. Retrieved June 25, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Rubin, Debra (June 1, 2010). "Koufax wows White House reception". Washington Jewish Week. Retrieved June 25, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9., retrieved May 12, 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2, retrieved May 17, 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1, retrieved May 17, 2011.
  12., retrieved May 17, 2011.
  13. 13.0 13.1 JTA newsbrief (May 15, 2015) "Obama to Address Washington Area Synagogue to Mark Jewish Heritage Month", retrieved May 19, 2015.

External links