One year prior to declaring its independence, a Portuguese Jew came to America, making landfall on the shores of New York. Haym Solomon found himself sympathizing with the colonists and decided to support the war efforts, becoming the biggest financer of the Continental army and pioneering the now over three-hundred year old tradition of Jews supporting the United States.
In an effort to honor the myriad contributions and achievements of Jewish Americans in the United States, President George W. Bush proclaimed the month of May as Jewish American Heritage Month in 2006, at the urging of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, former Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida community leaders.
This annual tradition has continued annually and this year, five individuals, each of whom are pillars of the Jewish community, will be honored by members of congress at a celebration in the Capitol Building held on May 16th for their contributions to American society. With their collective participation in human rights, health services, business, technology, government, justice system, and law enforcement they are the embodiment of American ideals.
The special guests being recognized at this year’s annual celebration are Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Rabbi Abe Friedman, Alyza Lewin, Rabbi Elie Abadie, Phil Friedman and Ari Scharf. Rabbi Simcha Scholar is the executive vice president of the world renowned Chai Lifeline, which provides support services to thousands of seriously ill children and their families. Rabbi Abe Friedman is a Chasidic community leader from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, who, for over fifteen years, has been a chaplain/community liaison to numerous law enforcement agencies in New York and New Jersey including the New York Police Department, the New Jersey State Police Department, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and several sheriff’s departments, as well as other state and federal agencies. Coming from a long line of distinguished rabbis, Rabbi Elie Abadie is a practicing physician, the founding rabbi of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue and director of the Jacob E. Safra Institute of Sephardic Studies at Yeshiva University. Alyza Lewin, a lawyer who specializes in litigation and government relations, has spent years contributing to the American justice system. Working with her father, famed lawyer Nathan Lewin, Alyza Lewin has devoted much of her practice to defending religious liberties, specifically on behalf of the Jewish community. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled 8-1 in favor of the Lewins’ client, Menachem Zivotofsky, who challenged the U.S. State Department’s refusal to list “Israel” as the the place of birth on the passports of U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem. Originally from the Soviet Union, Phil Friedman understands the significance of freedom of religion, having been forced to learn Hebrew for his Bar Mitzvah in secret and in an effort to support Jewish education, his Alexander Friedman Scholarship fund awards scholarships to five Yeshiva University students annually. Friedman is the founder of Computer Generated Solutions, a multinational company providing software, consulting, systems integration, training and help desk support. Ari Scharf is the founder and director of Project Mesorah a non-profit organization committed to educating the Jewish youth about their rich Heritage and the Holocaust. Mr Scharf is also the Founder and President of Franklin Exhibits. Franklin’s current project, the Air Force One Museum will tour the United States to educate millions of school children and adults alike about the history of America and the importance of Democracy.
“This annual tradition has continued annually and this year, five individuals, each of whom are pillars of the Jewish community, will be honored by members of congress at a celebration in the Capitol Building held on May 16th for their contributions to American society. With their collective participation in human rights, health services, business, technology, government, justice system, and law enforcement they are the embodiment of American ideals” said Ezra Friedlander, whose firm The Friedlander Group is coordinating the event on Capitol Hill.
The keynote address will be delivered by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is being touted as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. House Homeland Security Chairman Peter T. King of New York, Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Senator John Barrasso, M.D. of Whyoming will be acknowledging the contributions of the honorees. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will speak about the resolution she introduced, which passed the House of Representatives and called on the President to declare an annual Jewish American Heritage Month. The President subsequently did so, with the inaugural month in May, 2006. Since then, Presidents have proclaimed Jewish American Heritage Month annually.
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, will be the Master of Ceremonies.