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May is Jewish American Heritage Month

What do Bob Dylan, J.D Salinger, Harrison Ford, Jon Stewart, Barbara Walters, Barbara Hersey, and Leonard Nimoy all have in common, aside from being awesome?

They're all Jewish Americans.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, and this year's theme is American Jews in entertainment.(With apologies to William Shatner, who was born in Canada, and judging by his acting he's probably not kosher anyway.)

Jewish American Heritage Month was established by presidential decree in 2006, after lobbying efforts by the Jewish Museum of Florida, the South Florida Jewish community, Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter (Fittingly, Manischewitz is one of the major corporate sponsors.)

The Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, the National Park Service, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have partnered to create a website for JAHM, featuring selections from their digital collections on Jewish American history, oral histories, and online exhibits. NEH has its own collection of American Judaica on their EDSITEment! website, and the JAHM foundation has its own website, complete with a national events listing. They are also sponsored an essay contest for high school students and, in a nod to modernity, JAHM even has a dedicated Twitter feed.

And though the sequester has taken a bite out of cultural budgets in Washington, D.C. (unlike past years, there will be no White House reception for JAHM), the nation's capitol will still host a number of events to commemorate Jewish heritage. Some highlights:

  • Thursday, May 9, 7:00pm: Gerda Wasserman Klein, a Holocaust survivor who was the subject of the Academy Award-winning HBO documentary One Survivor Remembers, will discuss her life after a screening of the film. National Archives, William McGowan Theater.
  • Monday, May 13, noon: Documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner will discuss The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, the baseball Hall of Famer known as “the Hebrew Hammer.” Library of Congress, Pickford Theater.
  • Thursday, Mary 16, 7:30pm: Pamela Nadell, chair of the history department at American University, will lead a discussion on Jacob Riis's landmark work of photojournalism How the Other Half Lives, which exposed the terrible living conditions in New York City's slums. American University.