Obama marks Jewish-American heritage month: Elie Wiesel at the White House

SHARE Obama marks Jewish-American heritage month: Elie Wiesel at the White House


Approximately 300 guests are expected, including grassroots Jewish community leaders from across the country, rabbis, Members of Congress, and a broad range of leaders engaged in business, the arts, education, and public and community service.

Members of Congress Expected to Attend

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI)

Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)

Additional Notable Guests

Justice Stephen Breyer

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren

Professor Elie Wiesel


The Maccabeats from Yeshiva University will perform

President Obama will deliver remarks


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:

A Medal of Honor for Gallantry presented by Congress to David Urbansky

Union soldier David Urbansky (1843-1897) was awarded a Medal of Honor for gallantry at Shiloh and Vicksburg. His service record notes that Urbansky’s original medal was lost and that a new one was issued in 1879. Urbansky had entered the army as a private in the 58th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on October 28, 1861, and was detailed to the Corps Commissary Department on September 10, 1863, and was mustered out on January 14, 1865.

David Meyrowitz and Louis Gilrod’s “The Fire Victims”

Yiddish American popular song was rooted in Eastern European Jewish minstrelsy, which had long addressed current social, economic, and political themes. “Die Fire Korbunes” [The Fire Victims], composed by David Meyrowitz (1867-1943) and Louis Gilrod (1879-1930), is an elegy to the 146 victims, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women, who perished in the March 25, 1911, fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory, a New York City garment sweatshop.

Photographic print, Coming to America (1939)

As soon as the Nazi party came to power, Jewish immigration began to climb, and in 1939 more than 300,000 Jews migrated from Germany and Austria. Although 85,000 Jewish refugees reached the United States between March 1938 and September 1939, this level of immigration was far below the number seeking refuge. Like most immigrants these children on their way to Philadelphia huddled around the ship rails to catch their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and their new homeland.

Anniversary Medals

The medal commemorating the 300th anniversary of Jewish settlement in America bore the inscription: “Man’s Opportunities and Responsibilities under Freedom.” The obverse medal created to celebrate the 350th anniversary carries an extended excerpt from George Washington’s 1790 reply to Newport’s Hebrew Congregation: “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Photographic print, Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1965)

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel presents the Judaism and World Peace Award of the Synagogue Council of America to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on December 5, 1965, during the annual dinner of the Council. At that time, the Council was the coordinating agency in the United States for the three major branches of Judaism. Earlier in 1965, Rabbi Heschel walked with Dr. King on the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.



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