Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) is organized annually by the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) in Philadelphia. Held in May, the nationwide celebration features a month-long series of events, including a virtual Capitol Hill event and the premiere of an important documentary about a rabbi who played a vital role in the Civil Rights movement. Nearly 100 organizations around the U.S. will come together to help Americans of all backgrounds discover, explore, and celebrate the vibrant and varied American Jewish experience from the dawn of our nation to the present day.
According to the Jewish Ledger, JAHM began as an effort by the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida Jewish community leaders. Through the bipartisan efforts of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and the late Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, JAHM was established in 2006 by President George W. Bush to honor the contributions and achievements of Jewish Americans and to educate all Americans.
It’s been continued every year since then by Presidential Proclamation. NASA Astronaut Garrett Reisman, a New Jersey native, carried the original JAHM proclamation into space in 2010, and President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama hosted the first-ever White House reception in honor of JAHM that same year.
In 2020 the NMAJH repositioned JAHM to empower communities across the country to celebrate the inspiring history of Jewish people in America, educate diverse public audiences about Jewish culture, and spark crucial conversations about the American Jewish present and future.
This year, JAHM takes its theme from the ancient sage Rabbi Hillel’s most well-known saying – “If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now – when?” – and the work of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma.
JAHM will highlight historical moments in which American Jewish communities demonstrated remarkable resilience and care for communities outside of their own, and also how diverse communities stood up for Jews in the face of antisemitism. The month will showcase contemporary stories of communities transcending differences to come together in mutual support and solidarity and amplify diverse voices within the Jewish community. JAHM will work to fight not only explicit antisemitism but also its insidious influences and discrimination against people of all races, religions and walks of life.
JAHM 2021 will feature a series of events throughout May. For more information, visit nmajh.org.