Mayor Bruce Teague will proclaim May as Jewish American Heritage Month in Iowa City during the Tuesday, June 1, 2021 City Council meeting. The full proclamation can be read on our website.

According to the Library of Congress, the first Jewish people arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654, long before the city became New York and the country became the United States. Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) celebrates Jewish people’s contributions to American society and culture. The first celebration took place in 1980, when Congress asked President Jimmy Carter to issue a Proclamation designating a Jewish Heritage Week. President Carter chose a week in April, noting that April 1980 corresponded to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Israeli Independence Day, and the days of Remembrance of Victims and Survivors of the Holocaust. From 1980 to 2005, annual proclamations designating a Jewish Heritage Week were made. In 2006, Congress authorized JAHM and President Bush chose May as the permanent month of celebration. President Bush also commemorated the 350th anniversary of Jewish people arriving in America with a year-long celebration from September 2004 to September 2005.

Proclamations in the past have urged Americans to learn more about Jewish people and celebrate their contributions. In 2020, however, the National Museum of American Jewish History changed the focus. The Museum hopes to reposition the month as a way to empower communities to celebrate Jewish History in America, educate the public about Jewish culture, and spark conversations about the present and future of American Jewish people. The Museum launched online programming through the website, with the support of more than 50 organizations nationwide.

Jewish people have made notable contributions to all aspects of our society and culture. Examples are Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court; Dr. Jonas Salk, who invented a vaccine for polio, ending a crippling and sometimes fatal childhood disease; and Albert Einstein, whose Nobel-Prize-winning work in physics laid the groundwork for development of many indispensable modern technologies, including telecommunications networks, solar cells, and GPS. Finally, a Jewish person wrote the poem every American child learns in school: “The New Colossus,” the sonnet at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The proclamation will be accepted by Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz. 

Date of publication

Friday, May 28, 2021