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What Jewish American Heritage Month Means to Me

By: Hadassah Reich (11th Grade)

Am I a Jewish American or an American Jew? For most people, this is a tough question. How do I identify? Although the difference is subtle, they each emphasize a different part of who I am: an American and a Jew. While I am not sure which category I belong to, I am proud of my Jewish and American heritage.

This month, May, is Jewish American Heritage Month, established by President Bush in 2006. It is a month dedicated to the contributions that Jews have made to the United States throughout history, including notable people like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. Educational programs and online resources throughout the month celebrate American Jews’ influence on our country’s culture, government, society, and more. It is amazing to witness this time in America when Jews like me are not just being acknowledged, but are being celebrated. This recognition is even more meaningful and important now in the current global and national climate.

While many people may not understand the need for this dedication, I believe it is necessary to reflect on our community’s accomplishments and use them as inspiration for the future. We may not feel it on a day-to-day basis, but antisemitism is alive and well in America. According to the American Jewish Committee, 37% of American Jews reported that they have experienced antisemitism, and 25% said that they have received anti-semitic remarks. It is disheartening to see all the good that American Jews are doing juxtaposed with the hate the community is receiving. This is exactly why it is so important to have this month’s designation: to educate, advocate, and celebrate.

One thing that I find particularly inspiring is the headway that Jewish women are making in speaking out against get refusal, when a man holds back from giving his wife a halachic divorce, in America. Women such as Dalia Oziel and Adina Miles-Sash are using their social media platforms to advocate for agunot worldwide. Their actions are causing a ripple effect and producing results as more women are being freed from dead marriages. This movement’s efforts has caught the attention of various platforms such as Vice News and Vogue Magazine. I feel lucky to see these Jewish women actively changing the game for agunot in America.

This May, I urge everyone to research and educate themselves on Jews’ achievement throughout American history. Commemorating and celebrating the rich history of inspirational Jewish Americans fills me with pride and motivation to strive for greatness. So many people are not even aware that May is National Jewish American Heritage month nor that it even exists. It is so important to take this month as an opportunity to learn more about our heritage. For me, being a Jew is the most integral part of my identity that makes me, me. Being in America allows me to express that freely and full heartedly. Walking down the street, I often wonder if people recognize that I’m Jewish. Having this month makes me want to make sure that everyone knows. I am so proud of my heritage, why wouldn’t I want to share that with the world? So I still do not know whether I am an American Jew or a Jewish America. However, what I do know is that I am proud to be a Jew living in America and an American living as a Jew.

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