Jewish American Heritage Month

Jewish American Heritage Month


May is Jewish American Heritage Month. Since its proclamation on April 20, 2006 by President George W. Bush, the month of May serves as a time to celebrate the contributions, experiences, and stories of resilience of Jewish Americans throughout our history. May was chosen as the month of Jewish American Heritage Month because of the successful 350th Anniversary Celebration of Jews in America marking the Jewish arrival in New Amsterdam. 

The History of Jewish American Heritage Month

Jewish American Heritage Month originated in 1980 when Congress passed a resolution, which authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation designating April 21-28, 1980 as Jewish Heritage Week. Following a series of annual presidential proclamations designating a week in April or May of each year as Jewish Heritage Week, President George W. Bush proclaimed May as Jewish American Heritage Month on April 20, 2006. The proclamation began with efforts by the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida Jewish community leaders that resulted in resolutions introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. 

A Few Important Facts

  1. Judaism is not just a religion- but also a culture and a distinct ethnic group. Unlike other religions, Jewish people use their own alphabet and language for both religious and non-religious purposes.
  2. The Jewish day of worship is known as Shabbat (or Sabbath). It begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening. This is known as a day of rest when Jewish people will go to the synagogue or temple to worship.
  3. The Torah is considered sacred, so anyone reading from it uses a special tool called a "yad", rather than touching it.
  4. At age 13, Jewish boys take part in a ceremony called a bar mitzvah. The ceremony for girls is called a bat mitzvah and takes place when they are 12 or 13. This is when they become responsible for their own religious education. There are readings from the Torah and then usually a big party afterwards.
  5. Many Jewish people eat a kosher diet. This means that meat and dairy products should not be eaten together. Meat from certain animals should not be eaten at all, such as pigs. 
  6. The six-pointed star called the "Star of David" is an important symbol of the Jewish people. It is believed to grant the protection of David, who was an important Jewish king.
  7. Israel is known as the Holy Land to the Jewish people, and Jerusalem in Israel is known as the Holy City.
  8. Many Jewish people keep their heads covered when they are praying as a sign of respect for God. Some Jewish people wear a special cap called a "kippah".
  9. Some Jewish households have a mezuzah. This is a tiny scroll with writing from the Torah that is placed in a case and hung on a doorpost. It is a reminder that God is always there.
  10. There are different types of Judaism. Orthodox Jews follow stricter rules, such as worshipping in synagogues that have separate areas for men and women. Progressive, or Reform Judaism, has adapted these stricter rules for the modern age, with men and women being allowed to worship together, for example.


Jewish American Change Makers

10 Jewish Americans Who Changed History
Jews and the Arts: 10 Innovators
Jewish Political Milestones in the United States

Jewish American Artists and Athletes


5 Influential Jewish Artists You Should Know About
13 Jewish Children's Authors that Shaped Your Upbringing
8 Jewish Athletes to Follow this Year
10 Jewish Sports Icons

Civil Rights


American Jews and the Civil Rights Movement
Jews in the Civil Rights Movement

Books and Videos

Children and Middle Grade Books that Mirror the Diversity of Jewish Communities
Books for Kids and Teens that Nourish Jewish Identity