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From washington to biden

05/06/2021 01:19:01 PM


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

As you know, May is Jewish American Heritage Month.  Since  1980 when President Jimmy Carter at Congress’s behest declared a special week in honor of America’s Jewish residents, the president has issued a proclamation and special events and exhibitions have been held.

In 2006, President George W. Bush declared an official Jewish American Heritage Month. Each year the president issues a proclamation highlighting Jewish accomplishments and contributions to the US.

On this April 30, President Biden began with these words: “The Jewish American experience is a story of faith, fortitude, and progress.  It is a quintessential American experience — one that is connected to key tenets of American identity, including our Nation’s commitment to freedom of religion and conscience.  This month, we honor Jewish Americans — past and present — who have inextricably woven their experience and their accomplishments into the fabric of our national identity.”  Click here for the entire proclamation.

Here’s a brief review of some highlights of the relationship between the president and Jews.

George Washington, prior to the adoption of Bill of Rights, famously responded to the Newport, Rhode Island congregation with these words:

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Thomas Jefferson was the first president to appoint a Jew to a position in the federal government. In 1801, Reuben Etting became the US Marshall for Maryland.

John Tyler (remember Tippecanoe and Tyler, too?) appointed Warder Cresson as U.S, consul to Jerusalem in 1844. Cresson established a Zionist farming colony and is buried on the Mount of Olives.