In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month - celebrated in May - find a Jewish American Heritage Guide in this month's issue of Moment. This will be an annual feature.
We invite you to use it as a starting point for your journeys and discover the dynamic Jewish cultural organizations that exist, sometimes in the least expected places.According to the Guide's intro, the average American knows more about the Jews who left Egypt 3,000 years ago than about the Jews who came to America over the past 355 years. When American history textbooks mention Jews, it’s often in connection with the Holocaust.
However, Jews have been part of American life since their New Amsterdam arrival in 1654. This date gets pushed back earlier when one considers the arrival of the Sephardic conversos in the late 1500s and early 1600s into what is now the Southwestern US.
The archives, historical societies, museums and more listed in the Guide have taken the lead in preserving and informing that story.
Jews have extended the boundaries of American pluralism, serving as a model for other religious minorities and expanding the definition of American religious liberty so that they and others would be included as equals. Jewish American history offers us the opportunity to explore how Jews have flourished in a free and pluralistic society where church and state are separated and religion is entirely voluntary.The Guide includes:
Judah L. Magnes Museum: Jewish cultural life and history. Archives of the Western Jewish History Center, documenting Jewish influence in the American West.
Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance: Pioneering work in tolerance training. Exhibits highlight consequences of extreme intolerance - including the Holocaust.
Skirball Cultural Center: In a building designed by Moshe Safdie, the museum explores connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and American democratic ideals.
Mizel Museum: Interactive cross-cultural programming. Exhibits beyond Judaism beyond Judaism explore rituals of African-American, Latino, Muslim, Native-American and Asian-Pacific cultures.
Jewish Museum of Florida: A Jewish presence more than 250 years old. Highlights Jewish Floridians in all aspects of life during their presence.
Spertus Museum: Cross-cultural influences in Jewish Art, library, Institute of Jewish Studies.
Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life/Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience: Jews settled in the South in the late-17th century. Two sites in Utica and Natchez (site is an 1843 synagogue now a Jewish history center).
Museum of Jewish Heritage: Stories of lost lives and communities in the Shoah and the story of survivors.
Tenement Museum: A time capsule of Lower East Side immigrant life.
Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art: Jewish history from the Early Bronze Age to Jewish Oklahoma. Collection includes a cross-stitched Ten Commandments created in 1771 by Canadian Jewish pioneer Elizabeth Judah, 8.
National Museum of American Jewish History: Chronicles US Jewish history, artifacts. New building to open 2010.
Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington/SmallJewish Museum: Photo archive, oral histories, walking tours, programs and more.
Beth Tzedec Reuben & Helene Dennis Museum: International collection of Jewish historian and Encyclopedia Judaica editor Cecil Roth, with more than 1,000 ceremonial objects.
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Weibel Museum/St. Thomas Synagogue: Built 1796 by Sephardic Jews - one of the New World’s oldest synagogues.
Jewish Women’s Archive: Online interactive multimedia “Museum of the Jewish Woman,” with an oral history project, film, blog.
See the links for more information.