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Jewish American Heritage Month

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DEUTCH. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of the American Jewish community's many contributions to our Nation's society and culture. I would like to thank my dear friend and colleague, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for her outstanding dedication to preserving Jewish history and culture in America.

Jewish American Heritage Month gives all Americans the opportunity to recognize Jewish Americans as leaders in every facet of America's life, from athletics, entertainment, the arts and academia, to business, government, and our Armed Forces.

Florida's 19th District is home to the largest, one of the largest Jewish American populations in this country.

I'm privileged to represent many first generation Americans whose parents arrived on our shores seeking a better life. Many of these Jewish Americans are members of the Greatest Generation. They stepped up to serve in World War II and rebuilt this Nation after the Great Depression. In fact, over half a million Jewish Americans fought for the United States in World War II, and 11,000 of them perished fighting for our country.

For those who arrived in Europe as the Holocaust raged on, this war became very personal. As a quote from a Jewish Air Force officer reads, As a Jew, it was Hitler and me. That is the way I picture the war.

While the contributions of Jewish American soldiers during World War II cannot be understated, the truth is that Jewish American soldiers have been fighting for this country since the Revolutionary War.

Colonel Isaac Franks and Major Benjamin Nones were aides de camp to General George Washington. Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy, who served in the War of 1812, was court-martialed six times due to his defiance of anti-Semitism. And by the time the Civil War broke out, there were 150,000 Jews in the United States, with 7,000 fighting for the North and 3,000 fighting for the South. Senator Judah Benjamin even served as Secretary of State for the Confederacy. And although Jews only made up 2 percent of the population during World War I, they made up 6 percent of the United States Armed Forces.

Jewish Americans have served in Korea and Vietnam. They've served in Operation Desert Storm and in countless operations around the globe. They're among the brave young men and women who served after September 11 in the war on terror and who are serving bravely and valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as we speak.

And as we approach Memorial Day, I recognize those Jewish war veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, like Major Stuart Wolfer, a Jewish American major from my district, a loving father of three daughters who was killed by rocket fire in Baghdad 2 years ago.

Since the Congressional Medal of Honor, Jewish Americans have been awarded this high honor for their dedicated service to this Nation since it was created. Six Jewish Americans received the award in the Civil War, two in the Indian wars in the late 1800s, three in World War I, two in World War II, one in the Vietnam conflict.

I am proud to also note that Florida's 19th District is home to one of the largest chapters of the Jewish War Veterans of America. These brave men and women embody true patriotism, and their dedication to this great country is captured in their mission statement, which reads:

We, citizens of the United States of America of the Jewish faith who served in the wars of the United States of America, in order that we may be of greater service to our country and to one another, associate ourselves together for the following purposes:

To maintain true allegiance to the United States of America;

To foster and perpetuate true Americanism;

To combat whatever tends to impair the efficiency and permanency of our free institutions;

To uphold the fair name of the Jew and fight his or her battles wherever unjustly assailed;

To encourage the doctrine of universal liberty, equal rights, and full justice to all men and women;

To combat the powers of bigotry and darkness wherever originating and whatever their target; and

To preserve the spirit of comradeship by mutual helpfulness to comrades and their families.

The mission of this wonderful organization holds a special significance to me. I'm the proud son of a Jewish war veteran who volunteered as a teenager to serve our country and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he earned a Purple Heart.

My dad's no longer with us today, but with every veteran that I meet, I hear his voice and remember his love of country. It's a love of country that so many Jewish Americans hold in their hearts. Those who practice the Jewish faith hold in high regard a value for service, for justice and progress for all people.

These are values also embedded in the very fabric of this country. And it's for this reason today, on the fifth anniversary of Jewish American Heritage Month, that I am so proud to recognize the Jewish American men and women who, for centuries, not only have shaped our national culture, but have defended our people in times of great challenge.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz for arranging this wonderful evening.


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