Guide to Observing Jewish American Heritage Month
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.
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.
Professional Learning Opportunities May 2023
The Institute for Curriculum Services is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 education in America on Jews, Judaism, and Jewish history. Professional learning opportunities in May include:
- Teaching about Judaism on May 10
- Jewish immigration from 1880 to 1892 on May 18
- Identity and history of Jewish Americans on May 24
- Institute for Curriculum Services: This resource provides professional learning and K-12 lessons on topics related to Jews, Judaism, and Jewish History.
- Anti-Defamation League: The ADL provides Jewish American Heritage Month resources and other classroom-ready, grade-span lesson plans and books.
- American Jewish Committee: The global advocacy organization for the Jewish people has short videos and language that may be helpful for adult learning contexts.
- PBS documentary The Jewish Americans: This three-part series explores 350 years of Jewish American history.
- Jewish American Heritage Month: This website provides a variety of resources for teachers, including resources compiled from National Archives, Library of Congress, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History: This website provides engaging virtual resources, including a webpage specific to Jewish American Heritage Month.
Books by Grade Level
- 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
- 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
- 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
More to explore
Families can chat with community organizations, and learn about community resources and services. In addition, visitors can access health screenings for COVID-19, blood pressure, vision, and cholesterol.
The San Diego County Office of Education is launching an Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and Desi American art showcase in an effort to highlight local youth and young adult visual artists.
SDCOE has a variety of professional learning opportunities available to San Diego County educators at low or no cost this summer. Review them by topic and date and register to attend.
LGBTQIA+ Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate and honor youth and community members as well as foster a school climate where students, staff members, and families who identify as LGBTQIA+ can live their authentic lives and be treated with dignity and respect.
The Migrant Education Region 9 parent conference connected nearly 275 parents and students with learning opportunities, community and health services, and local businesses.
The San Diego County Office of Education has joined Contra Costa County and Glenn County offices of education in a statewide effort that focuses on supporting students with disabilities, students with dyslexia, and students who are dually identified by providing professional learning for K-12 educators.