This May, after 2-year hiatus, once again over two hundred community and lay leaders gathered on Capitol Hill to celebrate and commemorate the Jewish legacy and contribution in America.
This annual event, hosted by Project Legacy, took place in the ornate Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office building. Jewish American Heritage Month Celebration is held yearly during the month of May, which has officially been proclaimed as Jewish American Heritage Month by successive Presidents.
This year, President Biden proclaimed, “The Jewish American experience is a story of faith, fortitude, and progress. It is a quintessential American experience — one that is connected to key tenets of American identity, including our Nation’s commitment to freedom of religion and conscience. This month, we honor Jewish Americans — past and present — who have inextricably woven their experience and their accomplishments into the fabric of our national identity.”
Members of Congress from both parties attended the event, expressing their support for the Jewish community and achievements and delivered remarks. Members included: Senator Thom Tillis, Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Maggie Hassan, Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Jim Costa, Senator John Hickenlooper, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Jacky Rosen, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Tim Ryan, and Rep. Brad Schneider.
Many notable guests were present as well, such as Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, who is the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, White House Jewish Liaison Chanan Weissman, event co-chair Brock Pierce, and Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive VP of the American Friends of Lubavitch (CHABAD). Diplomats from the embassies of Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Slovakia, Hungary, Korea and Morocco joined together in support of Jewish heritage as well.
Event Chair, Greg Rosenbaum introduced the four honorees: ADL national director emeritus Abe Foxman, philanthropist Tzili Charney, Bukharian Chief Rabbi Itzhak Yehoshua, and founder of Tzedek Association Rabbi Moshe Margaretten.
Speeches at the event addressed the history of Judaism and antisemitism in America, the present situation and how to approach a future of Jewish community in the United States.
Senator Wasserman Schultz, the originator of Jewish American Heritage Month, thanked Greg Rosenbaum for leading this celebration. each year.
Senator Tim Kaine called the honorees “Four fantastic role models for all of us,”
Senator Ted Cruz stood by the Jewish community saying “It is now clear to us that America needs to be friends with Israel therefore we will be friends with Israel”
Senator Ben Cardin stated, “I don’t know of a person who has done more to fight not just antisemitism, but the rise of hate in the United States and around the world than Abe Foxman”.
Senator Wyden made a statement saying, “Nobody is free unless everyone is free; and the Jewish people understand that!”
Rep. Grace Meng, noting her connection to the Jewish people “In our district every month is Jewish Heritage Month”
Senator John Hickenlooper, praising the Jewish community: “What you are all here for are what these recipients have stood for”
Rep. Brad Schneider, talking about his own experience mentioned an anecdote where “The first thing I did when I came to Congress was put a mezuzah on my door”
Senator Sherrod Brown “American Jews and people of all faiths have dedicated their lives to fighting for justice in our local communities and in our great country; Jewish heritage is American heritage “.
Senator Blumenthal “Thank you to Greg Rosenbaum. All of you know him and you know how much he has done to celebrate and preserve Jewish heritage”
Rep. Jim Costa “We are here today because of the Jewish people, for the world that they have and continued to make; with their presence felt”
Senator Cory Booker wished, “Yaasher Koach and Beezrat Hashem next year we will see a nation with less hate and more love
Rabbi Levi Shemtov made an impact in his statement “As the victims of antisemitism, we need to understand why we are who we are and that is something which is unfortunately diminishing in our generation. We must counter this as much as we must counter antisemitism itself”
The members of Congress then congratulated the honorees and presented them with their awards. Senator Tillis expressed thanks to Rabbi Margaretten for his tireless work in the humanitarian field “The Tzedek Association, led by Rabbi Margaretten, stands for protecting and saving lives. This is what inspires him to work on improving our criminal justice system and it’s also what inspires him to work on other humanitarian causes”.
Rabbi Magaretten, accepting the award, said that he accepted it on behalf of the entire Tzedek Organization team for their work in Ukraine. Noting the 2,700 they have already fed and rescued- which was meant with applause by the attendees. Rabbi Margaretten goes on to say “It is important to thank our members of Congress and I thank that we can accomplish incredible things together; thank you for this great honor”
Senator Merkley said about the honorees “I was struck by what they had done, Abraham Foxman leading the ADL for decades, Ms. Charney’s Resolution Center for Peace and Diplomacy for students all around the world…”
Senator Rosen congratulated Abe Foxman with the award saying, “There is nobody who has been more passionate, more outspoken, who has knocked on every door, the epitome of persistence, doing everything he can to make this world a better place… and to fight against global antisemitism
Senator Jacky Rosen lauded Abe Foxman, “There is nobody who’s been more passionate, more outspoken, who has knocked on every door, called and called, me up, had the persistence to do everything he can everything he could to make this world a better place. To get people to listen to him, to bring people together, and to fight against global antisemitism. It is my honor and privilege to present you this award.
Abe Foxman saying in his speech accepting the honoree “I have been privileged to be part of the American Jewish community imperative of never again…Saying he believes a fairer and more honest America that can undo prejudice, as well as his belief in the Jewish people and the State of Israel”
Going onto say “I believe words make a difference, that the power of life and death is in the tongue, that words can kill, and words can heal, that good words can stop hate, that they can prevent pain and save lives, I believe we can change people’s minds and hearts”
Senator Maggie Hassan spoke about Ms. Charney, specifically how her philanthropic works spans across many disciplines, “Tzili does important work to promote education, conflict resolution and peace. What I was struck by about her work is her ability to work across disciplines in the areas of diplomacy, medicine, and the arts”
Tzlii Charney, after accepting her award, gave the following speech “American Jewry was always there to support American democracy and inhale the notion of American exceptionalism. Conflict resolution and peacemaking were always on top of their agenda. It is no surprise then that my late husband actively supported president Jimmy Carter’s effort to make peace between Israel and Egypt in the late 70s. I am committed to continuing this rich legacy of educating future generations about the need to exercise diplomacy first and to aspire to resolve what many look like an unsolvable conflict”
Senator Ben Cardin presented an award to Chief Rabbi Yehoshua with his award to saying, “We honor your outstanding leadership, building a community of 65000 members, indeed an invaluable contribution to the American Jewish experience”.
Chief Rabbi Itzhak Yehoshua noting that the day was 3334 years from the date that the first manna that from heaven came in the desert. It came every day and then disappeared, and the question is why? Some of the rabbis say it is because we must learn how to say thank you daily. And in vocation, I would like to thank G-d to give us this opportunity to be together after such a long time. Finally, I like to thank all honorees for what they are doing and what they do for the community.”
In conclusion, Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group, and founder of Project Legacy acknowledged Brock Piece, Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation and Alex Yakovlev as pillars of Jewish American Heritage Month celebration.
Greg Rosenbaum ended his remarks by inviting the participants to the panel discussion on the Abraham accords hosted by Bobby Rechnitz, that took place after the luncheon.
May has been proclaimed by President Obama and United States Congress, Jewish American Heritage Month. Despite years of oppression and persecution, Jews have always risen up to help bring improvement and progress to society.
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