June 2020 -- Sivan-Tammuz 5780,  Volume 26, Issue 6

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A New Jewish American Heritage Initiative

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish American Heritage Month Partnership, with the Office of the United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and the National Museum of American Jewish History, announce the launch of the Jewish American Heritage Initiative (JAHI).


JAHI will maximize the impact of Jewish American Heritage Month by developing digital and print curricula, materials, and creative content aimed at educating Americans about the Jewish people and its history, about Judaism’s values and traditions, and about the profound ways in which Judaism and Jewish Americans have contributed to building and enhancing the United States of America, from our country’s founding to the present day. JAHI will produce and curate these materials over the next 11 months and distribute them throughout the United States and via on-line media in time for use during Jewish American Heritage Month in May 2021.


“Especially during a time of rising anti-Semitism both here at home and abroad, it is all the more important that Jewish American Heritage Month become a vehicle for celebrating the Jewish people, treasuring the values of Judaism that helped shape our country, and promoting philo-Semitism throughout our great land,” said Elan S. Carr, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.


Special Envoy Carr added that JAHI will also serve as a template for the celebration in foreign countries of the contributions and history of their Jewish communities.

In a statement, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said, “As the original House sponsor of the legislation that created Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM), I am confident this critical initiative will fulfill the vision that the late Senator Arlen Specter and I had for JAHM — to educate all Americans of every background on the deeply important contributions of the Jewish people in all aspects of our great country, throughout American history. I thank the Jewish American Heritage Month Partnership and the Conference of Presidents for its unified support of this invaluable project.”


Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) said, “We have witnessed the alarming rise of anti-Semitism at home and around the world, and this critical initiative is vital in combatting this hatred wherever it rears its ugly head. Educating Americans of all backgrounds on the vast contributions of Jewish Americans will enable Jewish American Heritage Month to be a vehicle of change in the hearts and minds of Americans and a unifying force across our great nation. I thank Special Envoy Carr, the Jewish American Heritage Month Partnership, and the Conference of Presidents for their commitment to making this mission a reality.”

For the last 40 years, official celebrations of Jewish heritage have been proclaimed by presidents of the United State from both political parties pursuant to Congressional resolutions that enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support. Between 1980 and 2005, Congress authorized, and presidents proclaimed, a single week in April or May, depending on the dates of certain Jewish holidays, to be Jewish Heritage Week.


In 2006, Congress authorized annual presidential proclamations of Jewish American Heritage Month for each May.  In the first such proclamation, President George W. Bush declared that, “Through their deep commitment to faith, family, and community, Jewish Americans remind us of a basic belief that guided the founding of this Nation: that there is an Almighty who watches over the affairs of men and values every life.”


President Barack Obama, in the first of these proclamations during his administration, said, “Jewish Americans across the United States practice the faith and celebrate the culture of their ancestors. Across the Nation every day, individuals emulate their forebears by seeking to perform mitzvot, the hundreds of commandments set forth in the Torah. . . . Jewish Americans have immeasurably enriched our Nation.”


In his proclamation for Jewish Americans Heritage Month in  May, President Donald J. Trump declared, “Jewish Americans have contributed in countless ways to our country’s culture and character. . . . [and] strengthen, sustain, and inspire our country through dedication to family, respect for cherished traditions, and commitment to the values of justice and equality that unite Americans of every faith and background.”


JAHI will build on the existing Jewish American Heritage Month framework, including the recent successes of “JAHM 2020”, with its first national digital marketing campaign and more than 50 official partners from across the country.


The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is the recognized central coordinating body representing 53 diverse national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern.


The Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) Partnership activates JAHM each year, convening more than 50 organizations across the country to promote awareness and education. The Partnership is led by the National Museum of American Jewish History.