Obama Calls Americans to Observe May as Jewish Heritage Month

Since 2006, the United States has recognized the month of May as Jewish American Heritage Month. For the last three years, President Obama has hosted an annual reception to mark this occasion. However, because of the budget sequester, the White House will not be holding a Jewish History Month event this year. In addition, White House tours have been eliminated and the President and many members of his staff have taken pay cuts.

Official Presidential proclamation marking Jewish Heritage Month:

In his second year in office, President George Washington wrote a letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island — one of our Nation’s first Jewish houses of worship — and reaffirmed our country’s commitment to religious freedom. He noted that the Government of the United States would give “to bigotry no sanction [and] to persecution no assistance,” and that all Americans are entitled to “liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.” Those words ring as true today as they did then, and they speak to a principle as old as America itself: that no matter who you are, where you come from, or what faith you practice, all of us have an equal share in America’s promise.

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It was such a belief that drew generations of Jewish immigrants to our shores. It is what brought Jewish families westward when pogroms and persecution cast a shadow over Europe in the last century. It is what led Holocaust survivors and Jews trapped behind the Iron Curtain to rebuild their lives across the Atlantic. And with every group that arrived here, the Jewish American community grew stronger. Our Nation grew stronger. Jewish immigrants from all over the world wove new threads into our cultural fabric with rich traditions and indomitable faith, and their descendants pioneered incredible advances in science and the arts. Teachings from the Torah lit the way toward a more perfect Union, from women’s rights to workers’ rights to the end of segregation.

That story is still unfolding today. Jewish Americans continue to guide our country’s progress as scientists and teachers, public servants and private citizens, wise leaders and loving parents. We see their accomplishments in every neighborhood, and we see them abroad in our unbreakable bond with Israel that Jewish Americans helped forge. More than 350 years have passed since Jewish refugees first made landfall on American shores. We take this month to celebrate the progress that followed, and the bright future that lies ahead.

Obama and Elie Wiesel at 2011 reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month

Now, therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2013 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to visit www.JewishHeritageMonth.gov to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

Astronaut at National Museum of American Jewish History

After a journey that spanned millions of miles – from South Florida to the International Space Station and back – the original April 2006 proclamation that created Jewish American Heritage Month will be presented by Jewish NASA astronaut Dr. Garrett E. Reisman to the National Museum of American Jewish History.
In addition to speaking at the Museum, Dr. Reisman will present a video of his journey.

Dr. Reisman, who “carried” the proclamation on its space voyage, will return the document to its owner, the Jewish Museum of Florida, which will in turn present it to the National Museum of American Jewish History on behalf of JAHM. It will be displayed at the Museum, which opens November 14.

The proclamation traveled in mid-May with Dr. Reisman aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. “Dr. Reisman’s trip reminds us of the aspirations of millions of Jews who have made arduous journeys over countless miles for the promise of American freedom,” said Museum President and CEO Michael Rosenzweig.

“The shuttle flight is a compelling example of what Americans have been able to achieve, given the extraordinary freedoms provided by our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The promise of these freedoms has brought Jews and people from all backgrounds and religions to America,” he continued.

“On behalf of the National Museum of American Jewish History and in recognition of Jewish American Heritage Month, we will proudly display the proclamation that Garrett Reisman carried into space.”

May was first proclaimed Jewish American Heritage Month by President George W. Bush on April 20, 2006. The announcement was the crowning achievement of an effort by the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida Jewish community leaders that resulted in resolutions introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Sen. 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.

The JAHM Coalition was formed in March 2007 and convened by United Jewish Communities (now The Jewish Federations of North America), The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA), the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) and the Jewish Museum of Florida. The JAHM Coalition is composed of major national Jewish historical and cultural organizations including the National Museum of American Jewish History, AJA, AJHS, the Council of American Jewish Museums, the Jewish Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and the Jewish Women’s Archive.

The National Museum of American Jewish History is the only major museum in the nation dedicated solely to telling the story of Jews in America.

A Smithsonian Affiliate, the Museum will move into a $150 million building located in the heart of historic Philadelphia, one-half block from the 15,000-square-foot location it has occupied since opening in 1976. It will stand directly across from the Liberty Bell, one block south of the National Constitution Center and one block north of Independence Hall. The new five-story, 100,000-square-foot building was designed by internationally renowned architect James Stewart Polshek, design counsel to Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership).

Encompassing 25,000 square feet of gallery space on three-and-a-half floors, the core exhibition will explore the challenges faced by Jews since their arrival on this continent in 1654, celebrating their experiences in every facet of American life and throughout every phase of the country’s history. Featuring more than 1,000 artifacts, as well as films and state-of-the-art technology, the exhibition will showcase how an immigrant population flourished under freedom and will highlight the diverse backgrounds and experiences of Jews over a period of more than