Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin.
Long Island, NY - May 21, 2018 - In December 2005, a resolution recognizing May as Jewish-American History Month passed the House, and then the Senate three months later. In a unified front, President George W. Bush reaffirmed this month long celebration with a presidential proclamation. There are few things in our nation’s capital that are agreed upon unanimously, but there is no question when it comes to the contributions of the Jewish people to the fabric of American life.
The history of the Jewish people spans thousands of years, marked by adversity, triumph and a unique Jewish identity that has outlived the Roman empire, transcended the Middle Ages and prevailed in the face of genocide. They have made some of the greatest contributions to science, medicine and literature, forever changing our entire way of life while maintaining a community that is uniquely their own.
The scientific advancements pioneered by the Jewish people have revolutionized everything we know about our world from how we view it to its very existence. At just 26 years of age, Albert Einstein, a German-born Jew who continued his work in New Jersey, published four groundbreaking papers that laid the foundation of modern physics and spurred the development of his theory of relativity. Einstein’s reputation for academic achievement is so renown that, today, the word Einstein is synonymous with genius.
Einstein’s academic accomplishments pioneering modern physics are unparalleled, but Einstein is far from the only Jewish-American who has had a profound effect on even the most commonplace aspects of American life. In the early 1800s, Levi Strauss was born to an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Germany. At the age of 18, Strauss travelled to the United States where he would invent and patent the quintessential American garment - the blue jean - and found the world renowned denim company Levi’s. In his success, Levi Strauss went on to become one of San Francisco’s biggest philanthropists, giving to the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home, Eureka Benevolent Society and Hebrew Board of Relief.
Levi Strauss’ success, generosity and passion for giving back to his community is representative of the Jewish people as a whole. Throughout hundreds of years, Jewish-Americans have worked to make our nation a better place for their fellow Americans, advocating for women’s rights, marching alongside the leaders of the civil rights movement, serving in every branch of the military and working at every level of government.
The passion, spirit and character of the Jewish people is something I have aspired to foster in our community and our nation’s capital. In the same way Jewish-American History Month was founded, the importance of passing on the traditions of the Jewish people to the next generation should be agreed upon unanimously.
Founded in its rich culture and history, the Jewish-American community has shaped the soul of our country, their ideals sewn into the very fabric American life. Through their actions and willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Americans, they have truly made our nation and our entire world a better place for mankind.