Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shavuot & Jewish American Heritage Month

Let’s put customs aside this time and focus on history. An article appearing in today’s Jerusalem Post reports how President Obama praised Jewish American Heritage Month -- a May event for the past three years. Having recently visited the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, my curiosity was immediately piqued: could there be some type of historic event connected to Shavuot?

Surf, Google and ye shall find… sure enough, on May 28, 1773, Rabbi Raphael Chayyim Isaac Carregal of Hebron (pictured above along with the poster announcing his sermon) gave a Shavuot sermon at the Touro Synagogue that attracted the attention of Reverend Ezra Stiles, who was Minister of the Second Congregational Church of Newport, Rhode Island. Reverend Stiles eventually became President of Yale University. This was not the first time that Reverend Stiles went out of his way to hear the visiting Rabbi. In fact, the two became close friends.

Ask your students to become detectives. Find out what these two close friends talked about. What important words are found on Yale University’s seal? Is there a connection to Rabbi Carregal? Is there a connection between all of this and President Obama’s reflection that “Jewish American history demonstrates how America's diversity enriches and strengthens us all.”

Speaking of President Obama, in his proclamation he also notes that the Jewish American community has demonstrated that “Americans can choose to maintain cultural traditions while honoring the principles and beliefs that bind them together as Americans.” That brings me back to holiday customs. I’ll see you next week with one more quick and fun Shavuot custom you can do in the classroom.



  1. Shavuot is a special holiday and one of my favorites. I like everyone wearing white clothes and the dairy food.
    I would like to invite you visiting the following page, where I posted some recipes for Shavuot (like the Caramel Pecan Cheesecake). I'd be glad to get your comment: Shavuot recipes, at chefkosher.comChag Sameach!

  2. Comments are the recipe for success of any blog. Looking forward to more comments from my readers.

  3. To learn why the Crypto Jews of New Mexico are a hoax, read something by Dr. Judith Neulander of Case Western Reserve University. She did her Ph.D. dissertation on these people and later did joint research involving DNA that confirmed that there were never any Crypto Jews in New Mexico.
    Lee Haas