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Jewish American Heritage Month: Teaching with Videos

May 16, 2023

Jewish American Heritage Month: Teaching with Videos

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Jewish American Heritage Month is a time when we celebrate and honor the amazing contributions made by Jewish Americans. Starting in 1980, Congress passed a law asking the president to establish a week in April as Jewish Heritage Week. President Jimmy Carter was the first to do this, and at the time he spoke about how important the Jewish people were to the growth and development of America.

In the years that followed, Congress and other presidents continued to honor Jewish Heritage Week. In 2006, President George W. Bush signed a presidential proclamation designating May as Jewish American Heritage Month. May was chosen for the commemoration because it coincides with several important dates in Jewish American history. For example, in May 1654, the first Jewish settlers from Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York City), marking the beginning of Jewish immigration to North America.

Since May 2006, Jewish American Heritage Month has been celebrated annually with various events and activities, including lectures, exhibits, concerts and festivals. We recognize and celebrate the significant contributions made by Jewish Americans to the country's cultural, social and economic fabric. We also remember the victims of the Holocaust and the millions of Jews who were murdered by the Nazis. Let us never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, and let us always stand up against antisemitism, hatred and intolerance.

Louis Brandeis: The First Supreme Court Justice

Remote video URL

Questions to ask:

  • How did Brandeis' Jewish heritage shape his legal and social views?
  • How did Brandeis' appointment to the Supreme Court in 1916 impact American law and politics?
  • What was the significance of the "Brandeis brief" in legal history, and how did it change the way lawyers presented arguments in court?

The Notorious RBG

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Questions to ask:

  • How did Ruth Bader Ginsburg's gender and life experiences shape her legal and social views?
  • What role did RBG play in advancing women's rights and gender equality in America?
  • What was RBG's philosophy on the role of the Supreme Court in interpreting the Constitution and protecting individual rights?

Harvey Milk: Leading the Way

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Questions to ask:

  • Milk’s Jewish values of social justice, equality and community informed his political views and approach to leadership, and he saw the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights as part of a larger movement for social change. What was the significance of Milk's emphasis on community organizing and coalition building?
  • How did Milk's legacy influence future generations of LGBTQIA+ activists, politicians and advocates?

Judy Heumann: The Mother of the Americans with Disabilities Act

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Questions to ask:

  • Heumann’s Jewish upbringing taught her to stand up against injustice and to advocate for people who are often ignored or forgotten by society. How did Heumann's work on disability rights intersect with other social justice issues, such as civil rights and gender equality?
  • What was the significance of Heumann's involvement in the 504 Sit-In, and how did it impact the disability rights movement?

Emma Goldman: Radical Activist

Remote video URL

Questions to ask:

  • How did Goldman's experiences as an immigrant and working-class woman shape her views on anarchism and radical politics?
  • What was Goldman's role in the labor movement and the fight for workers' rights in America?
  • What was Goldman's view on feminism and the struggle for women's rights?

Learn More at https://jewishamericanheritage.org/ and the UntoldEdu History Channel on YouTube. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter @UntoldEdu.

Jewish American Heritage Month

Listen, learn and explore the history of Jewish Americans with your students by using our free collection of preK-12 resources to supplement your lesson planning.

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Untold History explores stories, people and artifacts that students won’t learn about in an ordinary text book. Perhaps now more than ever, our history is a vital and very present part of the world around us.

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