In 1654, after Portugal recaptured Brazil and expelled its Jewish settlers, a group of 23 Jewish refugees arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York City) seeking a safe haven and ultimately made a home for themselves and their descendants in the New World. In 2004, the 350th anniversary of this historic event was observed across the country and at the Library of Congress. On the heels of this observance, the House and Senate passed resolutions and President George W. Bush proclaimed that, beginning in 2006, the nation would commemorate American Jewish Heritage Month during the month of May.
The Library of Congress marked 2008 Jewish American Heritage Month with several lectures and a new Web presentation. This year’s national theme was “The American Jewish Experience.”
Sponsored by the Hebraic Section of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division, Marsha Rozenblit delivered the Ninth Annual Myron M. Weinstein Memorial Lecture on the Hebraic Book on May 6. The lecture focused on Viennese Jews in the 19th Century. Rozenblit is the Harvey M. Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Maryland. The lecture series honors Myron M. Weinstein (1927-1998), whose 29-year tenure at the Library was spent in the Hebraic Section.
Joan Nathan spoke on May 7 following a screening of clips from her PBS series “Jewish Cooking in America.”
On May 15, Marc Lee Raphael discussed his new book “The Columbia History of Jews and Judaism in America” (Columbia University Press, 2008. Raphael is the Nathan and Sophia Gumenick Professor of Judaic Studies and chair of the Department of Religion at The College of William and Mary.
The Library’s extensive holdings include numerous items pertaining to Jewish history and Jewish Americans. Some of these items were featured in an exhibition titled “From Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America,” which is accessible online and in a companion publication that can be ordered at www.loc.gov/shop/.
A Jewish American History Month Web site is accessible online. This Web portal is a collaborative project of the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.