Every year, by Presidential Proclamation, May is Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) in recognition of the indelible contributions American Jews have made, and continue to make, to our nation’s history, culture, and society.
Each year, this national celebration shows the ways in which this history deserves our collective attention, pride, and recognition.
The stories of American Jewish life are quintessential American stories of resilience, aspiration, imagination, determination, and achievement.
Explore the resources below to learn more about how Jews have shaped and been shaped by America across almost four centuries. Spread the word…and join in the celebration this May!
Jewish History in Los Angeles
Since the city’s American beginnings, Jews have shaped the social, economic, and cultural life of Los Angeles. They emerged as early leaders in commerce, civic life, and philanthropy, propelling the city’s growth while enriching its multiethnic character. By the twentieth century, the Jewish population had diversified substantially, setting the stage for disparate community experiences and destinies. Jews occupied a place at both the center and margins of urban life. Not only did Jews shape Los Angeles in important ways, their own religious and ethnic identities in turn were shaped by the city’s culture of self-reinvention.
The first Jews settled in Los Angeles just before the territory came under American control. Still a frontier town inhabited primarily by Native Americans, Mexicans, and Californios, Los Angeles in 1850 was a budding, fluid multicultural milieu fairly welcoming to Jewish newcomers.3 To a population long targeted by anti-Semitic prejudice, this openness was a compelling draw. As historian Karen Wilson writes, in Los Angeles these Jewish pioneer settlers “envisioned possibilities for economic mobility, communal stability, and social integration. . . In the sudden chaotic democratization of California society, Jewish immigrants discovered they could be among the architects of social renovation rather than have to accept marginalization.