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May 22, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC – Members of Congress joined the Jewish community in the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday to celebrate 353 years of American Jewry.  The reception marked the official Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) celebration in the nation’s capital. 

Hosted by United Jewish Communities (UJC), the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Wednesday’s congressional reception paid tribute to over three and one-half centuries of American Jewry.

As one of the nation’s leading Jewish advocacy groups, UJC organized the congressional reception to celebrate with federal lawmakers the contributions of the American Jewish community.

“Jewish American Heritage Month goes beyond one’s political affiliations,” said William C. Daroff, United Jewish Communities Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office.  “The first Jewish immigrants found a home in this country when few other nations would allow them to openly practice their faith free from intolerance and discrimination.  Over the last 353 years, it is undeniable the Jewish faith and culture has had a positive influence on the unique make-up and diversity of our country.  We congratulate and thank Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz, Senator Arlen Specter and their colleagues for helping to establish this month so that all Americans can gain a better understanding of our Jewish heritage and its impact on the development of our nation.”

First proclaimed in May 2006, JAHM seeks to educate all Americans about the history, culture, and heritage of American Jews.

The first Jewish community was established in New Amsterdam, present day New York, in 1654.  Today, it is estimated that there are nearly 5.2 million Jews in America.

Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) first introduced legislation urging the President to proclaim a Jewish American Heritage Month to recognize the contributions and influences American Jews have made to the nation’s unique culture.  The resolutions passed unanimously in the House in December 2005 and in the Senate in February 2006.

This year’s reception was attended by a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives and Senators.  Members in attendance included:

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY)
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA)
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Representative Shelly Berkeley (D-NV)
Representative Ross Carnahan (D-MO)
Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Representative Susan Davis (D-CA)
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Representative Paul Hodes (D-NH)
Representative Ron Klein (D-FL)
Representative Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)
Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Representative Bob Latta (R-OH)
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)
Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA)
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Representative Zack Space (D-OH)
Representative Diane Watson (D-CA)

Also in attendance at this year’s congressional reception was the Ambassador of Israel to the United States, His Excellency Ambassador Sallai Meridor.  Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services and former White House Jewish Liaison Dr. Tevi Troy was in attendance on behalf of President Bush and read from the Presidential Proclamation declaring May 2008 as Jewish American Heritage Month.


United Jewish Communities (UJC) represents 155 Jewish federations and 400 smaller Jewish communities across North America. UJC- Washington brings the federations’ voice to Capitol Hill and to the White House by advocating for life-saving and life-enhancing humanitarian assistance through more than 1,300 social service and healthcare institutions, community centers, schools and summer camps in nearly 800 cities and towns in North America, in Israel and in 60 other countries around the world.


[Text of Presidential Proclamation]

Jewish American Heritage Month, 2008
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Jewish American Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the history, culture, and faith of Jewish Americans and their contributions to our Nation.

The story of the Jewish people in America is the story of America itself. When the first Jewish settlers arrived on our shores hundreds of years ago, they saw a land of promise and liberty. With hard work and determination, these individuals helped build our country and strengthen our values. Their commitment to religious freedom and their belief in democracy have enriched our society and helped make our country a beacon of hope for all.

Many Jewish Americans have served in our military with valor and distinction in times of war and peace. We pay special tribute to all those who stepped forward when our country needed them most. These American heroes confronted grave dangers to protect our Nation.

During Jewish American Heritage Month and throughout the year, we honor Jewish Americans who played an integral role in shaping the cultural fabric of our Nation. Their spirit and talents have helped America succeed and prosper, and their efforts continue to remind us of the many blessings of this great country.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2008 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities to honor Jewish Americans across the country.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.