Jewish Heritage Celebration on Capitol Hill Pays Tribute to American Jewry
by Julie Ahn
On Tuesday, May 27th, esteemed members of Congress gathered in the Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill to celebrate annual Jewish American Heritage Month Congressional Celebration. The event was coordinated by The Friedlander Group.
Ezra Friedlander, co-chair of the Jewish Heritage Committee, opened up with solemn and reverent remarks: “Today, 73 years ago, my great grandfather, the Liska Rebbe, was deported to Auschwitz along with hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews. As we Celebrate Jewish Heritage Month, we duly express our gratitude to the United States by highlighting the important contributions to the United States by our fellow Jews.”
He then introduced his fellow co-chairs of the Jewish Heritage Committee: Greg Rosenbaum, Abe Eisner, Joseph B. Stamm, and Stanley Treitel.
Greg Rosenbaum , the Master of Ceremonies, recognized the honorees of the day that have given back in the field of science: Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Esther Kenigsberg, Dr. Shani Verschleiser, Moshe and Shaindy Lax, Menachem M. and Breinde R. Kiwak, Aaron and Felicia Cohen.
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was the first of congressional speakers, and passionately delivered his congratulations. “Congratulations today to our honorees who have been points of light in child safety, bridge building, in pre and post-natal care. It’s a joy to come by to join and help in this celebration and to recognize the contributions that Jewish contributions have made to our great nation over these past centuries.”
“It is a personal honor to be here to recognize Jewish American Heritage Month. I am a Jew, because I know that the world is not finished, that there is work to be done, and we are called to complete it… Jewish Americans have done it all. There isn’t a field that we haven’t contribute to or a just cause we haven’t championed,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) said.
Senator Steve Daines (R-MO) recalls the white supremacist action against the Jewish community in the town of Whitefish last year: “I responded with a tweet: this is not acceptable in Montana, we will work to fight this repulsive ideology. Little did I know that that little succinct statement became my most widely circulated tweet I have ever tweeted from my official office. Shortly there after, the entire leadership of Montana responded and penned a bipartisan letter condemning attacks on the Jewish community.” Senator Daines then congratulated the honorees: “Our shared heritage is incredibly important for a great country. Thank you for showing the world what ‘never again’ means.”
“You’ve worked hard to build bridges… So it is absolutely an honor to be a part of Jewish American Heritage Month and to honor you. Don’t quit. The job’s not done!”
Senator James Lankford (R-OK) urged the honorees.
“It was the Jewish communities in Detroit that made the strongest statements in defense of the Middle Eastern community. It goes to the heart of the Jewish community is about – any kind of injustice against anybody is an injustice against you. Thank you for always having that courage,” Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) spoke passionately.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke of how he is seeking the Congressional Gold Medal for the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel. In that light, he thanked the honorees and presented an award to Aaron and Felicia Cohen.
“Jewish American Heritage Month has been proclaimed by three successive presidents,” Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) noted. “It is so imperative that we celebrate on an annual basis. We are a minority of less than 2% of the population, and most people have not had much interaction with Jewish people in their lives, and are unfamiliar with our status as of a rich heritage and culture. With the precipitous rise of anti-Semitism and bigotry, it is more important than ever we educate people about our contributions as a faith, so we can promote tolerance.”
“Jews have made this country the great nation that it is. It gives us a chance to celebrate the accomplishments the American Jews. This is why I always look forward to be with you,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) “I am very proud to be part of the American Jewish Community”
“I want to thank everyone for being here, for asserting, affirming, acknowledging the great heritage of the American people and the impact made on humanity,” thanked
Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) fervently.
“The people you are honoring are true leaders and have done so much for our country. I am here to say thank you for being vigilant, for making us strong through your contributions, but also reminding us that the effort against hatred and bias and bigotry is never ending and we must build bridges,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
“I just want to say that I’ve had the good fortune to come here now for several years in a row, and every time I am reminded of the greatest legacy of the Jewish people in the United States, which is a deep and unwavering commitment to our communities – wherever and whoever they may be,” spoke Representative Joseph Kennedy (D-MA)
“Thank you so much for this honor, ” thanked Dr. Shani Verschleiser. “All children have a God-given right to navigate childhood safely without experiencing abuse.” Dr. Verschleiser is the founder of Magenu, as well as a noted speaker and writer on the subject of child safety.
“It is important to have plans for a future, a future where we can bring a light and a spark to mothers that feel hopeless and helpless, bring the spark back to them and their family,” spoke CEO of SPARKS, Esther Kenigsberg, Sparks’ mission is to provide mothers and families who are suffering unnecessary pain with comprehensive and integrated care.
“Who would believe that a day would come that Jews, together with Christians, diplomats from all over the country, as well as leading Senators and Congressmen, would be sitting here in the Senate building eating a Kosher meal and talking about the importance of Jewish values and Jewish life?” asked Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, beaming. “What we are witnessing is a miracle”
“We are humbled by the recognition and we look forward to helping SPARKS,” said
Shaindy Lax, renowned philanthropist of women’s and Jewish causes.
“Over the years I’ve watched SPARKS assist and help families in need. Thank you for helping us help others,” said Menchaem Kiwak is the co-founder of SPARKS.
“We are humbled, hopeful, and blessed,” thanked Felicia Cohen. Felicia is a certified birth and postpartum Doula and certified lactation consultant. Both she and her husband Aaron have supported numerous charitable organizations over the years.
“For more than 350 years, Jewish Americans have been making major contributions to the arts, sciences, medicine, sports, business, and government,” acknowledged
Congressman John Faso (R-NY).
Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL) concluded the congressional remarks. “First thing I did when coming to Congress was put the mezuzah on the door, so everyone knew who I am and from where my heritage comes” he explained. “It is an extraordinary moment for our history as a people to be in a great nation like this and to be able to fully express who we are and from where we come.”
The beautiful, celebratory reception was not only attended by prominent members of Congress on a bipartisan basis, but also by diplomats from all over the country including Floreta Faber, the Albanian ambassador to the United States, and Rose Sager, Representative from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain.