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Let’s create an American Jewish holiday

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10 historic events worth honoring
08/28/2015

Let's create an American Jewish holiday photo

With the Jewish holiday season fast approaching, perhaps this is a good time to ask: Why are there no Jewish holidays based on events in American Jewish history?

We have Jewish holidays for events that happened in Persia (Purim), Egypt (Passover), Europe (Yom HaShoah) … even in no-man's land (Sukkot). We have holidays about ancient-Israel events that took place under the rule of the Romans (Lag Ba'Omer), Greeks (Chanukah) and Babylonians (various fasts).

Sure, many of our holidays celebrate events in the Torah, but we create new holidays all the time. Modern Israel has three (Yom HaAtzmaut, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Yerusahalyim), and there are people alive today older than the Jewish State itself.

The Jewish community in America is one of the largest and strongest in history. We were only recently (in 2013) eclipsed by Israel as the country with the largest Jewish population in the world, a position we have held for centuries. Jews have been in North America for more than 350 years! That's longer than many other empires' entire existences.

So where are our holidays? Are American Jews not part of Jewish history? Can you even talk about "Jewish history" without taking about American Jewish history?

Jewish American Heritage Month is nice, but a bit vague. In attempting to encompass all of the Jewish American experience, it spreads itself too thin. It's also not a part of the Jewish religious calendar, like the history-based Purim or Chanukah.

It's time to rectify this situation. Here are 10 Jewish-American events significant enough to warrant a Jewish holiday celebrated by Jews everywhere:

American Jewry Day
Jews won the right to settle in New Amsterdam and establish a Jewish community in 1655, and on this day, we celebrate the relationship of American Jews with their country -- for all its faults, easily the strongest between the Jews and a Diaspora country in history.

Jewish Rights Day
Jews achieved political equality in all 50 U.S. states in 1877, and today we appreciate our rights and pledge to continue our efforts toward equal human and civil rights for all.

Zion Day
The Federation of American Zionists is established in New York City (1898), but the day honors the overall role of American Jews in helping Israel become a country.

Triangle Fire Remembrance Day
A solemn day for remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, and redoubling our efforts to ensure fair and safe working conditions everywhere.

Justice Day
Louis Brandeis was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1916 becoming the first Jew ever nominated for the Court, let alone to serve on it -- and in his name we honor all that Jews have done to bring justice and the rule of law to America and the world.

Immigrants Day
Today, we remember the racist Immigrant Acts of 1921 and 1924, which closed America to East European Jews and others, and advocate for immigrant rights.

Civil Rights Day
In 1964, Congress and LBJ passed the Civil Rights Act. On this day, we honor all Jews who strove for civil rights in America and worldwide, and pledge to follow suit.

Jews in the Arts Week (8 days, of course):
The contribution of American Jews to the world(s) of art are incalculable. We would take a whole week to celebrate achievements in painting, sculpture, music, dance, theater, film, poetry, prose and comedy.

Rebecca Gratz Day
In honor of this pioneering Jewish woman, we recognize all the achievements of Jewish women to American history and culture, and renew our commitment to women's rights.

Soviet Jewry Day
The Exodus of a million Soviet Jews from behind the Iron Curtain is celebrated and the story of their liberation retold, including the American Jewish role. This, certainly, is an historic landmark of Biblical proportions and deserves a formal holiday.

Let the Jewish people and the rabbinic authorities work together to create, ritualize, and promote a holiday based on America's Jews and all we have achieved over the centuries.

I mean, waffles have two holidays. And American Jews don't even have one.

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