May is Jewish American Heritage Month! This month serves as a time to celebrate the contributions and experiences of Jewish Americans throughout our nation’s history. It was first federally recognized in 2006, thanks to the advocacy efforts of Jewish American leaders.
Today, approximately 7.6 million Jewish Americans make up roughly 2.4% of the U.S. population, with roughly a quarter of that number estimated to be living in the New York City metropolitan area. In fact, New York City has the second largest Jewish population of any city in the world, behind only Tel Aviv, Israel.
With such a large population comes a long history, dating all the way back to when the first known Jewish immigrant, Jacob Barsimson, arrived to our city in 1654. The largest wave of Jewish immigration came at the turn of the 20th century, when the population went from about 80,000 Jewish Americans in 1880 to 1.5 million in 1920.
The city’s large Jewish population has produced trailblazers in nearly every field imaginable: whether it’s Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, composer Irving Berlin, baseball star Hank Greenberg, or one of many other, there are countless Jewish New Yorkers whose contributions to our society and culture we celebrate this month, and all year long. We encourage you to join us throughout May in recognizing their accomplishments, as well as honoring the struggles faced by Jewish Americans throughout history.
To further explore the impact that Jewish American communities have had not just on our city, but across the United States, check out the resources below to get started on your celebration!
Events, Exhibitions, and Places to Visit
One of our favorite ways to celebrate is with a good book! The suggestions below are just a few of our favorite titles, with works of fiction and non-fiction for every grade level that feature characters and perspectives that are often not reflected in other popular works.
Early Readers (3K–2)
- Bubbe and Bart’s Matzoh Ball Mayhem, by Bonnie Grubman; illustrated by Deborah Melmon
- Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty, by Linda Glaser
- Emmy Noether: The most Important Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of, by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Kari Rust
- Feivel’s Flying Horses, by Heidi Smith Hyde; illustrated by Joana van de Sterre
- Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story, by Lesléa Newman; illustrated by Amy June Bates
- Hannah’s Way, by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Adam Gustavson
- Kibitzers and Fools: Tales My Zayda Told Me, by Simms Taback
- Mitzvah Pizza, by Sarah Lynn Sheerger; illustrated by Deborah Melmon
- The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art, by Cynthia Levinson; illustrated by Evan Turk
- The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs, by Chana Stiefel; illustrated by Susan Gal
Elementary (Grades 3–5)
- All Three Stooges, by Erica S. Perl
- The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come, by Sue Macy; illustrated by Stacy Innerst
- Going Rogue (At Hebrew School), by Casey Breton
- Hammerin’ Hank: The Life of Hank Greenberg, by Yona Zeldis McDonough; llustrated by Malcah Zeldis
- Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, by Loïc Dauvillier; illustrated by marc Lizano
- Honey and Me, by Meira Drazin
- How To Find What You’re Not Looking For, by Veera Hiranandani
- I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy; illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
- The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel, based on the novel by Antonio Iturbe; adapted by Salva Rubio; illustrated by Loreto Aroca
- Osnat and Her Dove: The True Story of the World’s First Female Rabbi, by Sigal Samuel; illustrated by Vali Mintzi
Middle Grade (Grades 6–8)
- Black Bird, Blue Road, by Sofiya Pasternack
- Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch
- The Length of a String, by Elissa Brent Weissman
- Linked, by Gordon Korman
- Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar
- Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, by Susan Goldman Rubin
- This Is Just a Test, by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
- The Trouble with Good Ideas, by Amanda Panitch
- Turtle Boy, by M. Evan Wolkenstein
- The Unfinished Corner, by Dani Colman, Rachel Petrovicz, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell
Upper Grades (Grades 9–12)
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
- Bernice Sandler and the Fight for Title IX, by Jen Barton; illustrated by Sarah Green
- Color Me In, by Natasha Diaz
- Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bade Ginsburg’s Life and Work, by Victoria Ortiz
- It’s A Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories, edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
- Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize, by Margo Rabb
- Recommended for You, by Laura Silverman
- Someday We Will Fly, by Rachel De Woskin
- They Went Left, by Monica Hesse
- The Way Back, by Gavriel Savit
Many of these books are readily available through the citywide Digital Library on Sora, which provides free access to hundreds of digital e-books and audiobooks for our students. For even more reading recommendations, Sora also features over 100 titles in the Stop-Antisemitism Collection.
Video and Audio Resources
- The Library of Congress highlights a comprehensive list of Audio and Video resources from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, the National Archives, the National Gallery of Art, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as from their own collections.
A comprehensive Jewish American Heritage Month Resource Guide is available to educators on WeTeach NYC, along with the Meilman Meilman Virtual Classroom Classroom , a curriculum that was developed by the Museum of Jewish Heritage with the support of the New York City Department of Education. The resource guide features helpful lesson plans, background information, and other classroom materials, such as:
Hidden Voices began as a collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York that was initiated to help City students learn about the countless individuals who are often "hidden" from traditional historical records. Each of the people highlighted in the series has made a positive impact on their communities while serving as outstanding examples of leadership, advocacy, and community service. There are several curriculum options available that are especially relevant during Jewish American Heritage Month, including:
In addition to these lessons, we regularly feature profiles on history-making individuals who could be considered to be “hidden voices.” During Jewish American Heritage Month, check out our profiles on:
- Bernice Sandler, known as the "Godmother of Title IX," the transformative law that paved the way for gender equality in athletics.
You can find more of our profiles throughout the year on our Hidden Voices webpage.