Looking Back
(William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History)

Jewish American heritage is the foundation of your weekly JN. Each issue usually has a report about an aspect of Jewish history, which will eventually be added to the William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History.

On April 30, President Joe Biden proclaimed May to be Jewish American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate all the Jewish contributions to American culture and history over the past 370 years. Americans have been doing so every May for the past 15 years.

The idea for an official Jewish American Heritage Month originated in resolutions introduced in 2005 by Reps. Deborah Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Henry Hyde of Illinois in the U.S. House, and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania in the Senate. Impressed by a highly successful national celebration in 2004-2005 of the 350th anniversary of Jews in America, they decided to act to make this an annual affair. With strong support in Congress, their resolutions passed in 2005. 

Looking Back

On April 20, 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed May to be Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM). Every president since Bush has also issued proclamation every year for JAHM.

This year, upon declaring JAHM, President Biden said: “The Jewish American experience is a story of faith, fortitude, and progress. It is a quintessential American experience — one that is connected to key tenets of American identity, including our nation’s commitment to freedom of religion and conscience.”

Looking Back

Biden also noted two recent Jewish milestones: “This year, we also recognize two historic firsts, as America saw the vice president take the oath of office alongside her Jewish spouse [Doug Emhoff] and a Jewish American became the first majority leader of the United States Senate [Chuck Schumer] and the highest-ranking Jewish American elected official in our Nation’s history … 

“During Jewish American Heritage Month, we honor Jewish Americans, who, inspired by Jewish values and American ideals, have engaged in the ongoing work of forming a more perfect union.” 

This is all good to hear, especially, since Biden also noted the unfortunate rise in antisemitism in America.

Looking Back

It seems to me that Jewish American heritage is the foundation of your weekly JN. Each issue usually has a report about an aspect of Jewish history, which will eventually be added to the William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History. It is my privilege and honor to write about the history of Jews in Detroit and Michigan. As Associate Editor David Sachs said, “Every month is Jewish heritage month at the JN!”

I searched the Davidson Archive for articles about JAHM. I was surprised to see the first reference in the April 7, 2000, JN, five years before the national proclamation. That year, Wayne State President Irvin Reid designated April as Jewish Heritage Month at the university. The opening event featured art by WSU senior Talya Drissman of Farmington Hills.

Looking Back

There was an interesting report about JAHM in the June 12, 2010, JN. That year, on May 27, President Barak Obama hosted the first-ever White House reception for JAHM. Two local international presidents of BBYO, Jeremy Sherman and Arielle Braude, attended the event.

Finally, there were two other pages you may enjoy. The May 1, 2014, JN had a great list of things to do for JAHM. And, although the story, “Why Are You Proud to Be Jewish,” was published much earlier on Aug. 15, 1997, it is a perfect fit for JAHM. 

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.