May - A Month of Heritage Awareness
Jewish American Heritage
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

May is set aside to honor and understand the important contributions and struggles experienced by both American Jews and Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) citizens.

These heritage culture recognitions enacted by Congress are an opportunity for community members to learn about the peoples’ traditions, history, culture and experiences of those who are historically marginalized and have and still are struggling with oppression, prejudice, hate, and misunderstanding.

At a moment when American Jews - 7.5 million - are feeling vulnerable amid the rise in anti-Semitism, and acknowledgement that neo-Nazi culture is becoming part of the American landscape, we cannot think of a more important time to celebrate the many contributions the Jewish Americans have made.

Over the past 369 years, Jewish Americans have proven their loyalty and given their commitment to this country. Jewish Americans have served in government and the military, have won Nobel prizes, headed universities, made advances in medicine (Jonas Salk-Polio vaccine), served as star athletes, and creative performing and visual artists.

  • Nobel Laureate: Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize; Holocaust survivor, professor, politician, author of 57 books. Albert Einstein Nobel Prize in Physics
  • Supreme Court Justices: Louis Brandeis, Ruth Baeder Ginsberg, Elena Kagen
  • Hollywood/music: Al Jolson, Neil Diamond, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Jerry Lewis, Stephen Spielberg, Irving Berlin, Stephen Sondheim, Madonna
  • Culture: Stan Lee (Norman Lieber) created Marvel Comics and heroes such as Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men; Ruth Handler, created the Barbie Doll and Mattel Toy company
  • Astronaut: Judith Resnick: First Jewish American in space; died when space shuttle Challenger was destroyed during the launch of its rocket
  • Sports/Baseball: Hank Greenberg: The first Jewish MVP in baseball was the greatest power hitter of his time. “Hammerin’ Hank” was taunted by antisemitic rants from fans, opposing players, and even his own teammates.
  • Gymnastics/Olympics: Aly Raisman is a two time Olympian, and the third most decorated American gymnast in Olympic history behind Shannon Miller and Simone Biles with six Olympic medals, including the gold.


There are more than 24 million Americans with roots in China, Japan, Hawaii, the Philippines, Korea ,Vietnam, Samoa, Figi, Marshall Islands, Guam, Tonga, Northern Mariana Islands, The Indian subcontinent (East Asia, Southeast Asia).

The legislation to annually designate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage month referenced two key dates: May 7 and May 10. May 7, 1843 marks the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States. May 10, 1869, known as Golden Spike Day, recognizes the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the US which had significant contributions from Chinese workers - and much sacrifice.

The railroad stretched from the West to East coast, and 15,000 to 20,000 Chinese immigrants were a major part of the construction and building of the infrastructure of this country. Conditions were brutal, and the Chinese railroad workers did not receive the same wages as their white counterparts. They had to work longer hours and pay for their own food. They were treated as slaves.

The Myth Behind Asian Americans as the “Model Minority”

The phenomenon of “Tiger Moms“ hit our scene around 2011, and was coined by Yale Law School professor Amy Chua, an American born daughter of Chinese immigrants. Tiger parenting refers to a very strict approach where parents are highly invested in ensuring their children’s success by relentlessly pushing them to attain high levels of academic achievement, or to excel in music or sports.

You are called a “model minority” as an Asian American - until society decides you aren’t.

An NPR interview recounted a particular Asian American young man, who stated he would typically think of his minority status as “privilege-adjacent” and “invisible at times.” The mantra evoked by his parents was “work hard, stay quiet, do not cause trouble.” He and his friends excelled scholastically and easily got into colleges. He never assimilated in his white “Abercrombie & Fitch “student population, and stayed a loner with his head in his studies.

Over the past few years his perception changed. There seemed to be no privilege when racist terms like “China Virus” and “Kung Flu” were used to describe the corona virus, and the false accusations that the Asians were somehow responsible for spreading the virus. This resulted in nearly 11,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans counted by the group Stop AAPI Hate between March 2020 and December 2022.

The 2021 Atlanta area spa shootings that left eight people dead - six of Asian descent - shocked the nation. It did not, however, deter the hate incidents or discrimination many in the AAPI communities faced.

NPR reported a Pew Research Center survey earlier this month, where almost one third of Asian Americans say they have changed their daily routines due to ongoing fears over threats and attacks.

There still exists subtle and overt bias and discrimination that is difficult to overcome. According to the NPR reporting, Asian Americans are well represented in Silicon Valley, but the “bamboo ceiling” still exists when only 6% of Asian Americans in the national workforce are executives.

Interestingly, Asian Americans have more representation in Congress than at any other time, with 18 members in the House and Senate - but they only make up 3% of that membership.

Asian Americans are currently making a place for themselves in Philadelphia politics. In the recent May primary elections for mayor in Philadelphia, well respected City Council member Helen Gym ran as democratic front runner, although she did not win. David Oh is the republican candidate for Mayor. Nina Ahmad is poised to become City Council’s first South Asian lawmaker - the first immigrant in decades.

Many Asian Americans have expressed that ”deep down I will never be fully American in everyone’s eyes,” “There’s something about my black hair, almond-shaped eyes and slightly colored skin that makes people believe I’m not really American, despite my native English language, L.A. dress style, and my impeccable math skills and a most American stereotypical name.”

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