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May is Jewish American Heritage Month – On April 20, 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed that May would be Jewish American Heritage Month. The announcement was the crowning achievement in an effort by the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida Jewish community leaders that resulted in resolutions introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania urging the president to proclaim a month that would recognize the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture. The resolutions passed unanimously, first in the House of Representatives in December 2005 and later in the Senate in February 2006.
The month of May was chosen due to the highly successful celebration of the 350th Anniversary of American Jewish History in May 2004, which was organized by the Commission for Commemorating 350 Years of American Jewish History. This coalition was composed of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, the American Jewish Historical Society, the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration. (Library of Congress: About Jewish Heritage Month)
Although he was born in Russia, Irving Berlin created songs that epitomize American music. As Michael Walsh said in Time, "Berlin's songs are as much part of American culture as any folk song. Full bio
On August 3, 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 96 to 3, becoming the 107th Supreme Court justice, its second female jurist, and the first justice to be named by a Democratic president since Lyndon B. Johnson. Full bio
Bob Dylan (originally Robert Zimmerman), was the single most important figure in contemporary music during the 1960s, comparable in impact to Elvis Presley in the 1950s. Bob Dylan was the first and most significant singer-songwriter to emerge from the folk music scene, inspiring a whole generation of folk (and later rock) artists to explore the vast potential of songwriting in matters socially conscious, personal, spiritual, philosophical and intellectual. Full bio
Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), American poet, is best known as a spokesperson for the Jewish people. Her faith in America as a haven for all the downtrodden peoples of the world is expressed in her poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:
The only child of black actress Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on the TV sitcom The Jeffersons, and NBC news producer Sy Kravitz, Lenny Kravitz lived an idyllic city life while growing up in Manhattan's rich cultural atmosphere. Musicians including Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington visited. After moving to Los Angeles, Lenny went on to become a multi-Grammy award winner and continues to write and perform music, act and through his own company Kravitz Design, consults and designs commercial and residential products.
Leonard Bernstein was an immensely talented American conductor, composer, pianist, and educator who has made significant contributions to the realms of both classical and popular music through numerous concerts, compositions, recordings, television appearances, and classes. Full bio
Jonas Salk was one of the United States's best-known microbiologists, chiefly celebrated for his discovery of the polio vaccine. In 1960, he founded the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California; heavily funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (by then known as the March of Dimes), the institute attracted some of the brightest scientists in the world, all drawn by Salk's promise of full-time, uninterrupted biological research. Full bio
Henry Winkler became a television star in the 1970s with his role as "The Fonz" on the television series Happy Days. In 1976, at the height of his popularity, Winkler published his memoir, The Other Side of Henry Winkler: My Story. Winkler has since acted, directed, and produced in film and television. He has also cowritten the "Hank Zipzer, the Almost True Confessions of the World's Best Underachiever" series with Lin Oliver. Hank (like Winkler) also has a learning disability called dyslexia that makes it difficult for him to read, write, and spell. After 40 years in show business, Winkler won an Emmy award in 2018 for his portrayal of Gene Cousineau, the acting teacher on HBO's 'Barry'. Full bio
Lillian Florence Hellman (1905-1984), American playwright, wrote a series of powerful, realistic plays that made her one of America's major dramatists. She explored highly controversial themes, with many of her plays reflecting her outspoken political and social views. Full bio
American architect Richard Meier is internationally renowned as a leader of modern architecture. His clean, stark private homes and buildings have been erected in the major cities of the United States and around the world. He has won architecture's most coveted award, the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Among Meier's most well-known projects are the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the High Museum in Atlanta, the Frankfurt Museum for Decorative Arts, Canal Plus Television Headquarters in Paris, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Atheneum in New Harmony, Indiana.Full bio
Jewish American Heritage eBooks @ MiraCosta Library