By AUDREY FISCHER
“The Jewish story is intertwined with the American story—one of overcoming great hardship, and one of commitment to building a more just world.”
So said President Barack Obama in his April 29 Presidential Proclamation, declaring May 2011 as Jewish American Heritage Month.
For the second consecutive year, the White House called upon the Library of Congress to create a small display of items from its collections that underscores the contributions Jewish Americans have made to the nation.
Assembled by staff in the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle East Division, the Music Division and the Prints and Photographs Division, the display was on view during a Jewish American Heritage Month reception held at the White House on May 17. Invited guests included members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Hebraic Section Head Peggy Pearlstein and Seth de Matties of the Interpretive Programs Office (IPO) also attended the event.
To ensure that the items were properly prepared to be exhibited, staff in IPO and the Conservation Division worked with the White House curator.
The items included:
- Yiddish sheet music, “Die Fire Korbunes” (The Fire Victims), an elegy to the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, that claimed the life of many young Jewish and Italian immigrant women
- A 1939 photograph of Jewish refugee children aboard the S.S. President Harding, waving at the Statue of Liberty
- A 1965 photograph of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel presenting the Judaism and World Peace Award of the Synagogue Council of America to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- Bronze medals marking the 300th and 350th anniversaries of Jewish settlement in America (1654)
In 2004, the Library mounted a major exhibition titled “From Haven to Home” to commemorate 350 years of Jewish life in America, which may be viewed online.
The Library also collaborated with the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, the National Park Service and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on a website commemorating Jewish American Heritage Month.