Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month

May is Jewish American Heritage Month

By Rachael Weiss, publisher of Macaroni Kid Fort Mill - Tega Cay - Rock Hill, S.C. May 27, 2021

The United States began recognizing May as Jewish American Heritage Month in 2006, by Congressional resolution and Presidential proclamation. What's amazing to me — as an American Jewish woman — is I had no idea that May was Jewish American Heritage Month! 

It's never been a month that we celebrated or even talked much about. 

But, now that I know, I can share it with you.

Jewish American Heritage Month is a time to recognize the history of Jewish contributions to American culture and acknowledge the diverse achievement of the Jewish community in the U.S. 

In 2020 the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia repositioned Jewish American Heritage Month 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.

Depending on religious definitions and varying population data, the United States has the largest or second-largest Jewish community in the world, after Israel.

The American Jewish population is estimated at 7.6 million people as of 2020, accounting for 2.4 percent of the total U.S. population.

Here is a small but notable list of Jewish Americans and their accomplishments:

Gertrude B. Elion

Dr. Elion was the first to develop chemotherapy treatment for childhood leukemia in 1954 and received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988.

Dr. Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk

Dr. Salk developed the first successful polio vaccine as a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh in 1955. To date, the Salk vaccine is estimated to have helped save more than 100 million people. 

Ann Landers

An iconic figure, her newspaper columns offered advice and guidance to Americans from 1955-2002.

Irving Berlin

Berlin is widely considered one of the greatest American songwriters of all time. Most notably, he wrote and composed "God Bless America" in 1918.

Bernard Baruch

Baruch played a role in the formation of the League of Nations with his participation in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. He also helped form the National Recovery Administration, which helped to alleviate American suffering during the Great Depression. 

Levi Strauss

Strauss invented the iconic "blue jean" in 1873. Today, Levi's is a $4.8 billion American business.

Estée Lauder

Lauder co-founded Estée Lauder Cosmetics and was the only woman on TIME magazine's 1998 list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century.

Jon Stewart

Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz and rose to fame as a political satirist, writer, director, television host, and stand-up comedian. He's received 16 Emmy Awards.

Bob Dylan

Dylan is a legendary musician who influenced countless people after him. He rose to fame in the 1960s with songs that became anthemic for the civil unrest at the time, such as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin."

Gloria Steinem

Steinem gained national recognition as a leader of the women's liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s and continues to remain influential on women's issues to this day.

Barbra Streisand

The beloved actress, writer, author, and singer-songwriter has won two Academy Awards, eight Grammy Awards, and five Emmy Awards. She's one of the most commercially and critically successful entertainers of all time, holding the record for the most top 10 albums of any female recording artist.

Sandy Koufax

Koufax, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, is recognized as one of the sport's all-time greats. 

Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg is the founder of Facebook.

This is just a small list of the notable Jewish Americans we're celebrating this month.

Interested in exploring more of the incredible accomplishments of Jewish Americans? Check out the Anti-Defamation League's website for a list of children's books and other resources to share with your family, as well as the Library of Congress's Jewish American Heritage Month webpage.

Rachael Weiss is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Fort Mill - Tega Cay - Rock Hill, S.C.