Jewish American Heritage Month

May 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Posted in Identity | Leave a comment

Young Democrats of America Jewish Caucus

In 1654, the first known Jewish community was established in North America when a boat of 23 Jews escaping unrest in Brazil was given permission to settle in New Amsterdam.  For the next 356 years, Jews would contribute to American progress through contributions in history, heritage and culture.  In 2006, May was proclaimed Jewish American Heritage Month to honor these contributions.

When based on self-identification, the United States is home to the largest Jewish community in the World.  In 2008, the US census bureau counted almost 6.5 million Jews in the United States, or 2.2% of the total population.  During the month of May, the YDA Jewish Caucus will share highlights of the Jewish-American contribution.  Please join the YDAJC Facebook Group (!/group.php?gid=2204563746&ref=ts) to get daily updates!

Today in American-Jewish History

In 1956, Jonas Salk first made the polio vaccine available to the public.  During the 1950s, polio was considered the most frightening public health problems in the US.  Salk refused to take out a patent on the vaccine saying that some things were more important than making money.

Today, in 1985, the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) was established in Boston.  The AJWS was the first American Jewish organization dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among people across the globe.

American Jews born on May First:

1901 – Heinrich Erich Roemheld, an American composer, was born in Milwaukee, WI, and went onto become a composer for the film industry.  He was forced to leave his work for Universal Pictures in Berlin in 1929 due to the rise of Nazism.  Over the years, he would work on such films as Gone with the Wind, including the burning of Atlanta, The Lady From Shanghai, The Invisible Man and Shine On, Harvest Moon.  Best known for the song “Ruby,” from the movie Ruby Gentry, he won the Academy Award in 1940 for Yankee Doodle Dandy.

1905:  Movie director Henry Koster was a refugee from Nazi Germany.  Perhaps best remembered as the man who discovered Abbott and Costello and directed their first film in which American first heard “Who’s On First.”  (What’s on Second and I Don’t Know’s on Third)

1913 – Comedic Actor Louis Nye appeared on The Jack Benny Program, The Jimmy Durante Show, and The Steve Allen Show, where he took part in the weekly “Man on the Street” sketches.  He would also gain fame as a character actor on television and in movies, including voice work in animation, such as Inspector Gadget.  He worked up until his death at the age of 92, including a recurring role as Jeff Greene’s father on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

1923 – Satirist Joseph Heller wrote his most famous book Catch-22 while serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.  Heller also worked on the screenplay for Sex and the Single Girl and an episode of the television comedy McHale’s Navy. Additional novels include G-D Knows, Picture This, and his last novel, Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man.

For more information,

The Government’s Jewish American Heritage Month website, or the one sponsored by American Jewish Historical Society.
Sarah Holstine
Chair, Young Democrats of America Jewish Caucus Political Director, Young Democrats of America Mid-Atlantic Region (202) 905-4228

(Cross-posted from:


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