The following was written by our own Steven L. Pease, as published originally in the Huffington Post:
We are a nation of immigrants. Little has been more fortuitous than the rich melange of tribes and cultures that arrived from foreign shores to populate and share our land.
Among them were three major waves of Jewish immigrants whose contributions are now being celebrated during May’s Jewish American Heritage Month.
The first wave — 23 Jews — arrived in 1654 from today’s Brazil. They were escaping the onslaught of the Inquisition which imperiled their lives. After being allowed to immigrate, they demanded and received the right to participate as equals in defending their adopted colony.
The second, in the early to mid 1800s, were mostly from today’s Germany. They too were escaping persecution as efforts to change the politics of that part of the world brought strife.
The third, and by far the largest group — roughly two million Jews — arrived impoverished from the Pale of Russia. Though Jews have cherished education for most of 2,000 years, the harsh circumstances of the Pale left most of these Jews illiterate. Yet within a generation, 20 percent of the student body at Harvard was Jewish, as was 40 percent at Columbia, and 80 percent at Hunter College.
Though the Jewish people only represent 2 percent of the world’s population, they comprise 36 percent of the world’s Nobel Prize recipients in economics, 51 percent of Pulitzer Prizes for non-fiction, 21 percent of Ivy League university enrollment and 37 percent of Academy Award-winning directors. Steven L. Pease, raised a Presbyterian, asks why Jews are disproportionately high achievers and attempts to answer these questions through hundreds of fascinating case studies, ultimately making the case for the important role Jewish culture has played in this high-achieving result. As seen on the San Francisco Chronicle Event Calendar, Pease will discuss what drew him to investigate this topic, as well as the signifÃ¯Âcance of the Jewish emphasis on literacy and education in creating this legacy of achievement.
Location: SF Club OfficeÂ Time: 5:30 networking reception, 6:00 program, 7 p.m. book signing
Cost: $12 members, $20 non-members, $7 students (with a valid ID)
From Washington, President Obama will host prominent U.S. Jews at the White House to mark Jewish American Heritage Month.
“The reception serves as an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the range and depth of Jewish American heritage and contributions to American culture, with guests representing the many walks of life that have helped weave the fabric of American history,” a White House official said.
“Invitees include a range of community leaders and prominent Jewish Americans, from Olympians and professional athletes to business leaders, scholars, military veterans, and astronauts.”
The May 27 reception, hosted by Obama and his wife, Michelle, is the first of its kind since President Bush declared the first Jewish Heritage Month in 2007.
“The Jewish American story is an essential chapter of the American narrative. It is one of refuge from persecution; of commitment to service, faith, democracy, and peace; and of tireless work to achieve success. As leaders in every facet of American life — from athletics, entertainment, and the arts to academia, business, government, and our Armed Forces – Jewish Americans have shaped our Nation and helped steer the course of our history. We are a stronger and more hopeful country because so many Jews from around the world have made America their home.”
The recognition was the result of legislation initiated by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). We encourage you to check out our exclusive interview with Rep. Wasserman-Shultz here at JewishAchievementBlog.com