Jewish American Heritage

History

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.

This site presents only a sample of the digital and physical holdings related to Jewish American heritage available from the Library of Congress and other participating agencies.

Leading the way in implementation of the annual celebration is the Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition, formed in March 2007 and convened by United Jewish Communities, the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and the American Jewish Historical Society.

Library of Congress. Jewish American Heritage Month. jewishheritagemonth.gov/about/

People

Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, Varina Area Library, Assistant Manager​, Henrico County Public Library

Cristina Ramirez, Varina Area Library Assistant Manager

What is meaningful to you about your heritage and identity? 

My heritage and identity are very meaningful to me because I have carried the legacy, history, and spirit of my Sefardi Jewish ancestors that were expelled from Spain in 1492 and went to settle in Mexico. Then, the Inquisition came to Mexico, and many had to hide their faith. I am the first member of my family in over 500 years to formally return to Judaism, thus forming a circle with our ancestors across space and time. I am fully Latina, Spaniard and Mexican, and fully Jewish. All these parts of my heritage and identity make me a bridge and conduit between peoples, cultures, languages, religions, and places. I have a unique role to play in American Jewish communal spaces and to raise the profile of Jews of color. 

What would you like others to know about your heritage and identity? 

Jews come in all colors, heritages, speak all kinds of languages and have many varied traditions. In the U.S., many immediately think of Jews as being monolithic and perhaps having ancestors in eastern Europe that spoke Yiddish. That is true, but Jews come from all over the world, and we have Jewish communities that come from Africa, from the Middle East such as Iraq and Afghanistan, North Africa such as Morocco and Tunisia, from Italy, France, Turkey, Mexico and from all over Latin America. Jewish stories are human stories. They are stories of migration, integration, picking up languages and cultural norms, foods and customs along the way and carrying that rich legacy to the present time. 

How has your experience at Henrico County influenced your engagement around your heritage and identity with others? 

I have grown in my observance and faith during the pandemic and was able to harness the power of the internet to reach out to Jews around the country and world, and learn from different communities. That gave me great strength. I am also grateful to Henrico County for honoring my faith tradition and allowing me to not work on the Sabbath so that I may be able to spend Saturdays at my synagogue and community. Because of this, I encourage others of other faith traditions to be comfortable being themselves at work and to ask to have off on their holidays and holy days. 

 
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