The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Background on the Jewish American Heritage Month Reception

Approximately 200 guests are expected, including a range of community leaders and prominent Jewish Americans from professional athletes to Members of Congress, business leaders, authors and military veterans, among others.

Members of Congress Expected to Attend

U.S. Senate

  • Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)      
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) 
  • Al Franken (D-MN)   
  • Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)      
  • Carl Levin (D-MI)     
  • Arlen Specter (D-PA)

U.S. House of Representatives

  • Gary Ackerman (D-NY)
  • Shelley Berkley (D-NV)
  • Howard Berman (D-CA)
  • Stephen Cohen (D-TN)
  • Susan Davis (D-CA)
  • Ted Deutch (D-FL)
  • Eliot Engel (D-NY)
  • Bob Filner (D-CA)
  • Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
  • Jane Harman (D-CA)
  • Steve Israel (D-NY)
  • Steve Kagen (D-WI)
  • Ron Klein (D-FL)
  • Sander Levin (D-MI)
  • Nita Lowey (D-NY)
  • Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
  • Jared Polis (D-CO)
  • Steve Rothman (D-NJ)
  • Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
  • Adam Schiff (D-CA)
  • Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)
  • Brad Sherman (D-CA)
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
  • Henry Waxman (D-CA)
  • Anthony Weiner (D-NY)
  • John Yarmuth (D-KY)

Other notable attendees include:

  • Justice Stephen Breyer
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Ambassador Michael Oren
  • Solicitor General Elena Kagan
  • Retired MLB star Sandy Koufax

PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS

President Obama will deliver remarks

Rabbi Alyssa Stanton,who leads Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, NC, will read Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”

Regina Spektor will perform

WHITE HOUSE DISPLAY

The following items of significance to Jewish American history are on loan from the Library of Congress and National Archives. The items will be on display in the entrance hall for guests to view during the reception:

Deed of Gift for the Statue of Liberty and Invitation to the Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty by President Cleveland
Jewish American poet Emma Lazarus composed “The New Colossus” in 1883 as part of a fundraising campaign for the construction of the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. The words of the sonnet remind us of our Nation's promise as a beacon to all who are denied freedom and opportunity in their native lands.

Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” 
Considered by some as an unofficial anthem for America, “God Bless America” was written by the son of a cantor, a Jewish immigrant, who left his home in Siberia for America when he was a child. It was originally written by Irving Berlin (1888-1989) during the summer of 1918 at Camp Upton, located in Yaphank, Long Island. In the fall of 1938, as war was again threatening Europe, Berlin decided to write a “peace” song. He recalled his “God Bless America” from twenty years earlier and made some alterations to reflect the different state of the world. Singer Kate Smith introduced the revised “God Bless America” during her radio broadcast on Armistice Day, 1938, and the song was an immediate sensation.

Baseball Cards
A set of Jewish baseball player cards produced for the American Jewish Historical Society.

Letter from Moses Seixas to George Washington, August 17, 1790
Moses Seixas, the warden of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, penned a letter to George Washington, welcoming the newly elected first president of the United States on his visit to that city. Newport had historically been a good home to its Jewish residents, who numbered around 300 at the time of Washington’s visit. The Jews of Newport looked to the new national government to remove the last of the barriers to religious liberty confronting American Jewry. Seixas expressed his vision of an American government in words that have become a part of the national lexicon. He beheld in the United States “a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

Statement by President Harry Truman, May 14, 1948
On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, reads a “Declaration of Independence,” which proclaims the existence of a Jewish state beginning on May 15, 1948, at 12:00 midnight Palestine time (6:00PM EST May 14, 1948). At 6:11PM EST, America becomes the first nation to recognize Israel on a de facto basis. The White House issues this statement: “This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the State of Israel.”

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