Jewish American Heritage Month honors community


Georgia Ross

FLORAL FUNDS. The confirmands at Mount Zion Templehost a plant sale to raise money for the temple.

For freshman Desmond Rubenstein, being Jewish represents community. He was one of few Jewish students at most schools he attended, so he felt out of place in shared traditions or activities. “I didn’t have a lot to connect with my peers… I couldn’t connect with other people on something that everyone else could,” he said.
Though he now describes himself as “not very religious,” he still loves “the feeling of being part of something after learning that [he] wasn’t a part of something.” The traditions, holidays, and family time are important facets of his Jewish identity.
May is Jewish American Heritage Month, though celebrating Jewish heritage is more about raising awareness, according to the faculty advisor of the Jewish affinity group Mishpacha, Sophie Kerman: “Just like with any heritage month, it’s not actually a holiday or celebrated in the Jewish community. It’s more asking people who are not Jewish to recognize that Jews are around and are an important community.”
Jewish American Heritage Month has been nationally celebrated in May since 2006, following President George W. Bush’s presidential proclamation, officially acknowledging the Jewish community’s contributions and history. Outside the presidential declaration, states and cities can make individual proclamations each year; Governor Tim Walz formally proclaimed May as Jewish American History Month in Minnesota on May 1.
Youth and young adult engagement associate Abby Gore, who works at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul, believes that Jewish American Heritage Month celebrates the stories of Jewish people worldwide through struggle and triumph. “Especially in a time such as this with rampant antisemitism throughout the US, pointed information and misinformation about Israel on social media and on college campuses, and so many challenges in our society, it is vital to create time and space to honor, remember, and celebrate the successes and joys over the generations,” she said.
According to a survey by the American Jewish Committee that consisted of 1,433 American Jews, 24% of American Jews experienced an anti-Semitic incident in 2021, including physical, verbal, and online attacks. Furthermore, 39% of American Jews avoided behaviors or events in 2021 because of the fear of being identified as Jewish. Kerman believes the statistics point to actions that should be taken not just this month, but always: “The biggest way to be supportive is to not turn a blind eye to anti-Semitism…If having a Jewish American Heritage Month is an excuse for people to be thinking about [anti-Semitism], then that’s a good excuse to get people thinking about it, even though they should be doing that in more than just this month.”
Junior David Kopilenko, a member of Mishpacha, said, “Like for any other month, always be considerate to that group of people, and make sure that if something happens, you’re showing support…it doesn’t need to always be an outward thing.” Students can familiarize themselves with Jewish authors and stories through the display of Jewish American authors in the library, which is available throughout the month.


— David Kopilenko

Gore recommends “Color Me In” by Natasha Diaz, “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant, and “Invisible Lines of Connection” by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. In addition, social media can be a platform to learn about Jewish stories; Gore suggests the Instagram account @jewishoncampus. With increased awareness and support, there is hope for a more inclusive and wel