America250 celebrated Jewish American and Asian American Pacific Islanders Heritage Months during a Community Conversation on May 19, 2022. America250 was proud to partner with Jewish American Heritage Month and the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History. The event shed light on the shared histories of the Asian American Pacific Islander and Jewish American communities, detailed some of the legislation currently in place to support these groups and combat hate-related crimes, as well as highlighted museums as access points of education.
The Community Conversation began with introductory remarks from Joe Daniels, America250 President and CEO; Frank Giordano, Executive Director of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission; and Rabbi Mira Rivera. Daniels thanked the panelists and audience for their support and emphasized that the perspectives shared in the Community Conversations series will shape America250’s work. Giordano stated that “this commemoration has to be about all of America, each and every American. We need to listen.”
To introduce the topic of the conversation, Rabbi Mira Rivera shared that in this gathering “we defy those who would try to divide us and confound us. In coming to this table we resist those who mock us and fetishize us. In coming to this table we defy those who hate, humiliate, and perpetuate criminal atrocities on our people.”
The Community Conversation was moderated by Megan Springate, America250 Director of Engagement, and Michael Glickman, founder and CEO of jMUSE. The panel included U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, U.S. House of Representatives; Annie Polland, President of the Tenement Museum; and Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese in America.
To showcase the connection between the Jewish American and Asian American Pacific Islander communities, Annie Polland explained how the stories of the Jewish and Chinese communities can be looked at side by side through the garment industry in New York. These groups have lived side by side for generations and many immigrants worked in the garment industry. “There are so many stories stitched into the fabric of our neighborhood and the fabric of the clothes that we have worn for so long,” said Polland.
Asian and Jewish communities have experienced a drastic increase in hate-related instances and crimes. As a non-Jewish member of Congress, Congresswomen Meng has long championed the fight against antisemitism. Representative Meng spoke on some of the work she has done to combat these hate crimes, including the 2022 COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. This bill would “create a better and more effective infrastructure and oversight of reporting these types of incidence so we can even begin to adequately measure what is actually going on in the ground. So we can have better responses,” said Representative Meng.
The panel also discussed the importance of museums being spaces of powerful storytelling that represent the experience of groups and provide an opportunity for people to learn together. “The more we understand diversity and that there is not one monolith for any type of person, the closer we are to realizing the true possibility of the American dream,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach.
When asked about hopes for America’s future, Polland expressed hope for becoming “a more united country through the understanding of each other.
America250 will be hosting Community Conversations regularly through 2026. For previous and upcoming Community Conversations visit Events & Programs.