In 2006, May was declared to be Jewish American History Month by President Bush, a move passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate. Learn about Jewish Americans who left their mark on the world.
Famous Jewish Americans
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Sound familiar? These words engraved on the Statue of Liberty were written by Jewish poet Emma Lazarus.
Judith Resnick, opens a new window, daughter of Ukranian immigrants, was the first Jewish astronaut in space. She was among the crew who died when the Challenger exploded over Cape Canaveral in 1986.
Leonard Bernstein was an acclaimed conductor and Broadway producer born to Russian immigrant parents in 1918. He got his first big break when he orchestrated the New York Philharmonic in 1943. He's perhaps best known for writing West Side Story which won 10 Academy awards.
Milton Glaser is a Jewish graphic designer made famous in the 1970s by his "I Love New York, opens a new window" design and Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits album art, opens a new window. Do you recognize any of his other designs, opens a new window? Glaser continues to create brilliant graphic designs to this day.
Scientist Jonas Salk, son of Russian-Jewish immigrants (and the first member of his family to go to college), discovered the polio vaccine in 1955. Salk never patented the vaccine or earned a dime from his discovery as it was his wish that the vaccine be distributed as widely as possible.
Born in Germany in 1829, Levi Strauss immigrated to America at age 18. Levi Strauss & Co. was established in 1853 and originally sold dry goods like tents, clothing and bedding. The company would go on to patent Levi's jeans as we know them today in 1873.
"God Bless America" was one of over a thousand songs written by Jewish American Irving Berlin who immigrated from Byelorussia (modern day Belarus) when he was a small boy. Irving Berlin (born as Israel Berlin) worked for pennies to make ends meet before he would go on to define American music as we know it today.
Robert Allen Zimmerman was born to Ukranian immigrants in 1941, but you probably know him as Bob Dylan, a pseudonym he began using early in his musical career. Many of his lyrics have Jewish themes as a tribute to his upbringing in a Jewish family in Minnesota.
Genealogy and Research
- Check out genealogy resources, opens a new window available through the library, including Ancestry.com, opens a new window.
- Not sure where to begin? We can help! Ask a Librarian, opens a new window for a 30-minute appointment.
- View Jewish Heritage lists and collections.
- Check out Jewish American Heritage picture books perfect for young readers.
- Share your family history and stories about your childhood with your children. No matter how young they are, you'll be introducing them to the magic of stories.
- Do you speak two or more languages at home? That's great for your child's development!