May marks the beginning of Jewish-American Heritage Month (JAHM), a federally recognized, nation-wide celebration that provides the opportunity for all Americans to reflect on the significant roles that Jewish-Americans have played in the shaping of our nation’s history.
JAHM was first set into law on April 20, 2006 by President George W. Bush. 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 (D-FL) and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) urging the president to proclaim a month that would recognize the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture. The resolutions passed unanimously, first in the House of Representatives in December of 2005 and later in the Senate in February 2006.
The purpose of JAHM is to explore the meaning of religious pluralism, cultural diversity, and participation in American civic culture. May was chosen as the celebratory month because of the successful 350th anniversary celebration of Jews in America. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have sustained their identity and traditions, preserving in the face of persecution. Through generations of enslavement and years of wandering, through forced segregation and the horrors of the Holocaust, they have maintained their holy covenant and lived according to the Torah. Their pursuit of freedom brought them to our shores, and today our country is the proud home to millions of Jewish-Americans.
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 the Jewish Federation 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.
This month, join Saint Xavier University (SXU) in honoring the tremendous contributions Jewish-Americans have made as scientists and artists, as activists and entrepreneurs. SXU promotes and celebrates the importance of upholding respect and compassion for all cultures amongst its students, faculty and staff, by establishing it as part of the University’s core values. Respect moves us to understand the gifts and unique contributions of every person in the University community and to value diverse perspectives. It is a concept that has remained at the heart of SXU’s history and will continue to grow alongside the institution.