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Public Statements

In Support of "Jewish American Heritage Month"

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of Jewish American Heritage Month. Nearly 360 years have passed since the establishment of the first Jewish community in North America. Since that time, Jewish Americans have contributed to the cultural richness and diversity of our nation in every field of community life, including business, government, medicine, law, the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities, academia, religion, and the military.

There are approximately 5 million Jewish Americans and more than 100,000 of them live in Texas, nearly half of those, about 45,000, live in the Houston metropolitan area. Although their numbers may be small in a state with a general population over 20 million, the impact of Jewish Americans in Texas and in Houston has been great indeed.

Jewish Americans were there during the fight for Texas' independence from Spain and Mexico. Adolphus Sterne, an East Texas merchant, was a principal source of financial backing for the Texas Revolution and a close friend of Sam Houston. Albert Moses Levy was surgeon-in-chief in the revolutionary army. The De Cordova family helped develop the city of Waco and Henri Castro settled immigrants in several Texas towns. In 1859 the first synagogue in Texas was established in Houston.

Business and trade, especially the merchandising of food, clothing, jewelry with style, elegance, and distinction are the arenas in which many Jewish-Texan families made their most visual marks on the state of Texas. There is hardly a city in the Lone Star State whose history is without landmark stores founded and developed by Jewish entrepreneurs: Neiman, Marcus, Sanger in Dallas; Battelstein and Sakowitz in Houston; and Joske in San Antonio.

These cities and towns reaped the benefits not only in availability of goods, but also in owners' generous patronage of the fine arts and in contributions to civic life such as the historic Levy Opera House in Hillsboro and the Brin Opera House in Terrell. Other early Jewish Americans who contributed mightily to civic life include Anna Hertzberg, who served as president of the original San Antonio Symphony Orchestra before World War I, and Olga Bernstein Kohlberg of El Paso, who started Texas' first free public kindergarten in 1892. That tradition continues today with the Dell Children's Hospital in Austin established by Dell Computers founder and CEO, Michael Dell.

Mr. Speaker, it was 65 years ago this month that President Truman recognized the free, independent, and democratic State of Israel, making the United States the first country to welcome Israel into the family of nations. And for 65 years Israel and the United States have remained the best of friends and the strongest of allies. One reason for the enduring strength of this relationship is the enduring contributions made by Jewish Americans in enriching American life and culture.

Mr. Speaker, as a representative of the state of Texas which has welcomed Jews for more than three centuries, I join with my colleagues and President Obama in calling upon all Americans to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

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