On April 20, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law an act establishing May as Jewish American Heritage Month, recognizing the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture.
Since 1654, when the first Jewish community settled in America in the Dutch colonial settlement, New Amsterdam (currently New York City), members of the Jewish faith have made significant contributions to American society, culture,
and its success.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Jewish influence in America continues as the United States is ranked second with 39 percent of the world’s Jewish population, following behind Israel that contains 42 percent of the world’s Jewish population.
George Washington, shortly after being elected President, sent a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, at the time the largest community of Jewish families in America. He thanked them for their good wishes. Following is a paragraph from that letter:
“It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. 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 in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”