Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month!

By NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD
Image celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month, featuring the Star of David in a quilt-like pattern, with a hamsa, torah, menorah, chai, and pomegranate.

During May, Jewish American Heritage Month recognizes the contributions of Jewish people to American culture, history, science, government, music, and arts.

Jewish artists, culture bearers, and arts workers have and continue to create some of the most impactful American artworks. This month we honor Jewish Americans like George and Ira Gershwin, brothers who wrote the music and libretto (respectively) for Porgy and Bess, considered a keystone American opera of the 20th century, as well as many other Broadway and orchestral hits. And Maurice Sendak, whose illustrations and books, including Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and many others, charmed and fascinated generations of children and their parents. The most honored children’s book artist in history, in 1996 he received the National Medal of Arts in recognition of his contribution to the arts in America. 

We also honor Jewish American artists like Max Weber, one of the first American Cubist painters; conceptual artist Judy Chicago, who coined the term “feminist art;” and dancer Pearl Lang, who studied under and danced with Martha Graham before starting her own company and eventually earning dozens of awards. And, of course, Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning playwright Tony Kushner has long been a familiar name in American culture. Director and animation producer Ezra Edmond, visual artist Ayeola Omolara Kaplan, and multi-disciplinary artist Tyler Rai are among a younger group of Jewish American artists making their marks.

The NEA makes numerous grant awards to organizations that focus on Jewish American Heritage, both through a historic lens, and through newly commissioned work. Among our most recent grant recipients are the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, the Jewish Film Institute, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, Vox Feminina Los Angeles, and Theater Nohgaku, Inc.

This month, the NEA encourages everyone to learn more about the many diverse and wonderful contributions to arts, culture, and humanities made by Jewish Americans.