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Jewish American Heritage Month

As a librarian and a Jewish parent, I regularly see three types of books displayed during Jewish American Heritage Month—holiday books, Holocaust books, and Israel-related books. Yet there is much more to the American Jewish experience than these three tropes. Exploring books about Jews in the Diverse BookFinder database reveals four new ways to celebrate the multiplicity of Jews and Jewish heritage this month.

Racial and Cultural Diversity

Several books in the collection, like Rebecca’s Journey Home, highlight racial and cultural diversity within the Jewish community. This diversity can come from blended families, as in Fridays are Special or Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas. Or it can reveal Jewish communities outside of Europe not often discussed, such as the Ethiopian Jewish community of Yosef’s Dream.

Standing Up for Freedom and Equality

Did you know that some American Jews were active in the Civil Rights movement? Or the Abolitionist movement? Books like The Most Magnificent Mosque and The Legend of Freedom Hill can spark conversations about the history of American Jews standing up for freedom and equality.

Celebrating Differences and Commonalities

Cross Group books in the collection showcase Jews celebrating differences and commonalities with members of other communities. Two friends Marcus and Liang in Shanghai Sukkot share holiday celebrations and explore each other’s traditions. A Hat for Mrs. Goldman highlights friendships between people of different generations and faiths. And Sharing Our Homeland examines Israeli Jewish and Palestinian children working toward peace through communication and respect in “Peace Camp”.

Doing the Everyday Work of Childhood

Finally, it’s useful to explore books where Jewish children are performing the everyday actions of childhood, providing windows and mirrors of ordinary Jews to help depict the full humanity of the American Jewish experience. Jews do not only exist historically in difficult circumstances (the Holocaust) or at certain times of the year (holiday celebrations). Instead, they might go to camp (No Baths at Camp) or play baseball (Across the Alley); they might even be anticipating having new siblings (Room for the Baby).

I hope this brief survey has given you some new ideas for how to depict the Jewish experience during American Jewish History Month. Please feel free to explore the Diverse BookFinder database for more resources for display and conversation!

Deborah Tomaras is a cataloger and consultant/advisory council member for Diverse BookFinder.

Many of the cover images on this site are from Google Books.
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