Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month

The library strives to celebrate and serve all of our community members. Each month, we work to highlight a distinct segment of our nation’s heritage and history. May, along with being Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, also happens to be Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM). The celebration, first instituted in 2006 through a proclamation by President George W. Bush, takes place annually with a presidential proclamation. This year, President Joe Biden reflected upon how the contributions of the Jewish people have “been woven into the fabric of our Nation’s story,” and “continue to enrich every part of American life as educators and entrepreneurs, athletes and artists,” etc. However, he did not gloss over the antisemitism also present in this country. As our society feels more unsteady and divided, it’s vital that we all consciously work together to truly see and value one another and recognize that we have more in common than we may realize. 

During May, and beyond, we ask that you join us in lifting up one another. How can you celebrate JAHM? It can be as easy (and entertaining) as listening to “All About Me!,” the Mel Brooks autobiography. Or, closer to home, check out our oral history project Voices of Princeton, and our collaboration with the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer County. You will be delighted listening to the stories of Princeton locals who have grown up in Princeton and who have been instrumental in building a tight-knit Jewish community. Princeton Adult School executive director Anne Brener reminisces about her childhood, including a certain candy store proprietor with wild white hair who was far more important to her than that other wild-haired man (Einstein) who would often be seen wandering around town, and getting her first kiss at Princeton Public Library (when it was at the Bainbridge House). Oh, and her parents were founding members of the Jewish Center of Princeton.

Then, there is Ruth Schulman. She and her husband, Mel, moved to Princeton in 1964 from Franklin Township because, unlike Franklin Township, people actually supported the school budget. She also shares illuminating details about the contract that they were asked to sign for the mortgage of their first house, which said that “if they sold the house, they could not sell to a member of the Negro race.” She refused to sign and had it removed from the contract. After you listen to Ruth’s story, consider reading this 2006 interview with her in Lilith.

We hope you might be able to join us on Sunday, May 21, from 2 – 5 p.m., for “Jewish History and Heritage in Princeton,” featuring exhibits about Princeton’s Jewish history as well as the aforementioned Voices of Princeton oral history project. This event will be happening alongside a Jewish American Heritage Festival on Hinds Plaza.

On Wednesday, May 31, also consider attending the annual Phyllis Marchand Lecture, a talk with author Pnina Lahav as she discusses “The Only Woman in the Room,” a biography of Golda Meir’s political rise to prime minister of Israel.

We can all learn from each other. As Ruth Schulman says, “You have to build communities wherever you are … that’s what keeps us together.”

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