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Guide to Observing Jewish American Heritage Month

Guide to Observing Jewish American Heritage Month
Jewish American Heritage Month banner art decorative

Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) in May is a time we honor and celebrate the culture, history, and contributions of Jewish Americans. 

Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month in classrooms and schools can help students and families feel seen, heard, and valued –– and it creates space for all students to learn about the contributions of Jewish Americans to our country’s prosperity and spirit. 

As we celebrate our country’s Jewish heritage, it is important that we also address any barriers or challenges that Jewish Americans may face in their efforts to reach their utmost potential. We all know that America is stronger, both here at home and on the world stage, when we harness the strength of every voice and every community that makes up our nation.

We aim for SDCOE to be a place where in accordance with our board goal of providing educational opportunities and support so that all students are successful — we prioritize the specific needs of Jewish Americans and all historically marginalized communities.

Who Are Jewish Americans? 

Jews first came to America in 1654, fleeing persecution in Brazil. Those 23 adults and children were the foundation for an American Jewish community of 6 million, representing about 2.4 percent of the American population. In 2018, there were approximately 7.5 million Jews in the United States, and San Diego County is home to more than 100,000 Jewish people, about 3% of all residents. 

The Jewish faith intersects ethnicities, nationalities, and races. Jews have been at the forefront of many of this nation's seminal moments — fighting for the Union in the Civil War, marching and advocating early and often for civil rights, and suffrage for women. Likewise, Jewish Americans have served in government and the military — more than 500,000 Jewish Americans served in World War II. Jewish Americans have won Nobel prizes, headed universities and corporations, advanced medicine, created and performed in enduring works of performing and visual art, written great American novels, and become emblems of justice as members of the Supreme Court.

Supporting Jewish Students

Addressing Antisemitism in Public Schools 

With the rise in hate crimes and discrimination against Jewish Americans, intentionally learning about our Jewish students, families, and colleagues –– during JAHM and throughout the year –– builds understanding, fosters inclusion, and nurtures allyship. SDCOE created an educator guide to address antisemitism in public schools with resources to support educators in the classroom. 

Student Voices 

We seek to listen to diverse voices within our community and honor their knowledge and beliefs about educational concerns and best practices for our students. These statements were shared by Middle Eastern students and community members, and we strive to listen and amplify these voices. 

  • Center students’ languages, literacies, cultures, and histories 
  • Diversify the curriculum, ensuring positive representation
  • Support parent and family voice
  • Ensure safe and inclusive classrooms
  • Learn about and accommodate religious holidays
  • Collaborate with community partners

SDCOE held student panels featuring San Diego County students of Middle Eastern and North African descent and Latinx students, both of which include Jewish students who share their experiences in education. 

Middle Eastern and North African Student Experience Panel Video

 

Latinx Student Experience Panel Video

 

Resources for Educators 

The following open education resources for K-12 aim to bring Jewish American Heritage Month to schools, communities, and homes in May and throughout the year.

Teaching Resources

Books by Grade Level

Grades TK-3

  • The Book Rescuer by Sue Macy, illustrated by Stacy Innerst
  • I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
  • The Passover Guest by Susan Kusel
  • Raquela’s Seder by Joel Edward Stein, illustrated by Sara Ugolotti
  • Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee WInd, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky
  • Sitting Shiva by Erin Silver, illustrated by Michelle Theodore
  • The Tower of Life by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Susan Gal
  • The Very Best Sukkah by Shoshana Nambi, illustrated by Moran Yogev

Grades 4-8

  • Aviva vs. the Dybbuk by Mari Lowe
  • Black Bird, Blue Road by Sofiya Pasternack
  • Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass
  • Linked by Gordon Korman
  • The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron, a local author who teaches English at Mesa College
  • RBG’s Brave and Brilliant Women by Nadine Epstein
  • The Genius Under the Table by Eugene Yelchin
  • The Woman Who Split the Atom by Marissa Moss

Grades 9-12

  • The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros
  • Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds
  • The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R.M Romero
  • The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum
  • My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen
  • The Way Back by Gavriel Savit
  • When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb
  • Whistle by E. Lockhart

 


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More to explore

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African bracelets and kente cloths

African American high school graduates from throughout San Diego County were celebrated this month with a special Rites of Passage ceremony hosted by the National College Resources Foundation in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education and the Association of African American Educators.

iPad technology being used in classroom by students

In today’s digital world, it is important for educators and students to look at media with a critical eye to ensure they understand the source, perspective, and bias that impact the stories they read or view. SDCOE has gathered some online resources to support media literacy inside and outside of the classroom.