B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin delivered remarks at the Library of Congress on May 5 as part of Jewish American Heritage Month. The speech was part of a kick-off event that featured keynote speaker Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was an original author of the resolution presented before the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 requesting the formation of Jewish American Heritage Month. B’nai B’rith International was one of only two organizations that received the honor of being invited to speak at the event.
“In eighth grade we learned American history and I remember looking ahead to the period of immigration,” Mariaschin recalled. “I was anxiously looking for names that at that point even I knew were Jewish. I can recall the chapter reciting famous immigrants from Germany, like Albert Einstein, famous immigrants from Hungary and they had Joseph Pulitzer. They were from Germany, they were from Hungary, they were from these other places, but it didn’t say that they were Jewish. Sitting here today, knowing what’s gone on in the last several years, it’s a great comfort knowing that today the opportunity to tell our own story and of our contributions is here and 50 years ago we didn’t have this. What all of this does is that it speaks so clearly about this great experiment and experience in pluralism that is the United States and is the American people.”
Mariaschin also noted that with the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II approaching, Jewish American Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to not only recall the great Jewish-American minds and athletes, but especially the Jewish soldiers who have fought on America’s behalf in all wars, including more than 500,000 in World War II.
“Over 355 years of Jewish life in America, we have made significant contributions to American history as a people,” Wasserman Schultz said. “It was felt that having a month-long celebration, a month-long series of educational programming, would raise awareness, particularly in the non-Jewish community, about the contributions that Jews have made to the rich tapestry of American life.”
Dr. James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress; William C. Daroff, vice president for Public Policy of The Jewish Federations of North America; and Abby Schwartz, national coordinator of Jewish American Heritage Month also spoke, discussing the importance of recognizing the vital roles Jews have played in American history.
Together, Wasserman Schultz and Billington activated the Jewish American Heritage Month website, on which events across the nation are announced and publicized. Visit the site at http://www.jewishheritagemonth.gov/.
Click here to read President Obama’s proclamation announcing the 2010 Jewish American Heritage Month.