These greetings from the United States president and vice president for the High Holy Days appeared in the Chicago-based Jewish newspaper The Sentinel on September 15, 1955. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message focused on the Jewish people’s contribution to the world: “I hope that your observance will renew in each of you a devotion to the cause of peace…in accordance with ancient spiritual and moral teachings of your religion.” He goes on to say that the teachings of Judaism are: “a guide in the search for justice and good will among nations.” In addition to the general influence of Jewish teachings, he is specifically referring to the situation in Israel at the time and US endeavours to bring peace to the region. This is particularly interesting as President Eisenhower is not generally known to have been very sympathetic to the Israeli cause.
Nixon ended his words with a similar message of hope for peace in the world. In his first paragraph he referred to the history of the Jewish people and the continuity of Jewish faith and values: “It is reassuring... to know that there is a continuity of recorded time and civilization going back that far.…It has taken strong perseverance and strong religious faith to come this far along the way.”
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Rosh Hashanah – Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the Jewish New Year which takes place on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It is celebrated by blowing the shofar, lighting candles, eating festive meals, and attending services at the synagogue. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holy days which end 10 days later with Yom Kippur. The ten-day period is called the Ten Days of Repentance, because it is believed that during this period a person’s deeds are judged and the future year is decided. It is a both a festive holiday and a solemn time of introspection which includes prayer, asking forgiveness from others, and giving tzedakah (charity). The prayers on Rosh Hashanah include asking God for a peaceful, prosperous, and healthy year. Rosh Hashanah also celebrates the creation of the world. People greet each other on Rosh Hashanah by saying: “Shana Tova (Happy New Year).” Food customs for Rosh Hashanah vary among the different communities but often include round challahs (instead of the customary long loaf), apples and honey, and pomegranates. Many people send Shana Tova cards to their friends and family.
Immigration to America – Sephardi Jews were the first to arrive to New Amsterdam (later named New York) in 1654 from Brazil. Large numbers of German Jews arrived in the United States in the 1840s due to persecution and a lack of economic opportunities. By the onset of World War I, 250,000 German-speaking Jews had arrived in America. They settled in America, spread throughout the country, and built institutions such as B’nai Brith and the American Jewish Committee. Eastern European Jews began to arrive in America after the 1880s, fleeing from pogroms, persecution, and poverty in their home countries. These new immigrants spoke mostly Yiddish and came from less educated and more traditional backgrounds. Many were attracted to labour and socialist movements, eventually becoming leaders in their communities. They tended to live in poorer neighbourhoods of large cities, often working in the sweatshops of the garment industry. The large waves of Jewish immigration to America ended in 1924.
The Chicago Sentinel - The Chicago Sentinel, a weekly newspaper for the Chicago Jewish community, was one of the longest continuously published Jewish weeklies in the United States. The first issue of The Sentinel was published on February 4, 1911. The newspaper focused on cultural events and included many eye-catching illustrations and photographs. It also published short stories and reports about events in the various Jewish communities. The Sentinel differed from many other English-language, often highbrow, Jewish weeklies, because it reached out to the Zionist immigrants who preferred to read in English and not Yiddish. The Sentinel is a treasure trove for social, cultural, and religious historians who are interested in American Jewish life outside of New York during the twentieth century.