The first proclamation of Jewish Heritage American month was born of efforts from groups lobbying for a celebration of the contributions made by Jewish Americans as well as their heritage.
Learn about the details leading up to the first resolution and official proclamation of Jewish American Heritage Month as well as recognitions since the first proclamation.
Early Efforts Towards Creation Of Jewish American Month
Although the first known Jewish people arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654, their contributions went unrecognized to mainstream America until recently. Jewish Americans contributed to manufacturing, food service, journalism, building cities and towns across the country. Jewish Americans helped settle many areas of the country, making outstanding contributions to American history. Jewish Americans made contributions to science, industry, law, literature, politics, music and art. The Jewish Virtual Library documents the many contributions made by Jewish Americans. Yet their efforts went largely unrecognized for centuries.
During the latter part of the 20th century, efforts began to take shape to honor Jewish American heritage and the contributions that Jewish Americans made to the country. The first effort to honor Jewish Americans on a nationwide level took place in 1980.
The First Proclamation Honoring Jewish Heritage In America
In 1980, Congress passed Pub. L. 96-237. The Library of Congress explains that Pub. L. 96-237 authorized and requested then-President Jimmy Carter, to issue a proclamation to designate a week during either April or May as Jewish Heritage Week. The result was the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 4752 of April 1980. In the proclamation, in which President Carter proclaimed the week of April 21 as “Jewish Heritage Week,” the President spoke of the exceptional contributions that Jewish Americans made to the country.
He also spoke of the importance of April 1980 on the Jewish calendar, which included anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Israeli Independence Day, and the Days of Remembrance of Victims and Survivors of the Holocaust.
Later Jewish Heritage Week Observances
Although President Carter proclaimed the week of April 21 as Jewish Heritage Week, the date did not last in subsequent years. Through 1990, Congress passed a variety of resolutions proclaiming either a week during April or May as Jewish Heritage Week. Yet there was no set annual date to observe Jewish American Heritage or contributions made by Jewish Americans.
By the time George W. Bush took office, efforts were underway to set aside an entire month as a Jewish American Heritage Month.
May Becomes Heritage Month Proclamation
The Jewish American Heritage Month site explains how May became the officially recognized Jewish American Heritage Month.
Largely due to efforts of the Jewish Museum of Florida and the South Florida Jewish community leaders, in 2005, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania issued resolutions asking that President Bush issue a proclamation declaring a month to recognize nearly 400 years of contributions made by Jewish Americans.
In December 2005, resolutions passed the House and passed unanimously in the Senate in February 2006. As a result, President George W. Bush proclaimed the month of May as Jewish American Heritage Month.
Recent American Jewish Heritage Month Observances
Each year since the original Presidential Proclamation, proclamations, celebrations, and observances across the country recognize the overwhelming contributions of Jewish Americans to American Culture.
The Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition was formed the following year, in 2007. In his 2012 proclamation, then-President Barack Obama stated that the contributions made by Jewish Americans have forever enriched our national life. During the 2015 proclamation, Barack Obama stated that Jewish American Heritage month enables us to tell the American story.
In 2016, the National Parks Service showcased historic properties that commemorate events and people throughout history that illustrate the contributions made by Jewish Americans. The year 2017 has held the proclamation with Donald Trump once again commemorated May as Jewish American Heritage Month.