Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney officially declared May as Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) in Virginia’s historic capital city on Wednesday.
At a celebratory ceremony held at City Hall in collaboration with the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond (JCFR) and Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), Mayor Stoney said, “Today I am proud to proclaim May as Jewish American Heritage Month in Richmond, Virginia. As we’ve seen in the news and in our own backyards, antisemitism has been rising at an alarming rate across the United States. The growth and spread of this hatred are threats not just to Jewish people, but to all who value human dignity, inclusion, and compassion.”
“So, with that said,” he added, “the recognition and celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to offer hope and positivity as we celebrate the vibrant heritage of Jewish Americans whose lives and communities have enriched our cities and nation.”
The official proclamation signed by the mayor called on “all citizens of our great city to become further educated about the many contributions of the Jewish Community.”
CAM has been encouraging mayors across the country to declare JAHM at the municipal the highlight the unique and integral role Jews have played in shaping American society since the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam (later New York City) more than three and a half centuries ago.
Sacha Roytman Dratwa — CEO of CAM — stated, “Mayor Stoney has been an unwavering ally in our efforts to proclaim the uplifting stories of many great Jewish Americans, and to help prevent antisemitic activity and ideology from spreading any further. We need more voices like his that speak loudly and clearly against bigotry, and that go beyond merely teaching tolerance by regularly and intentionally celebrating the lives and good work of many Jewish Americans. This education will help thwart modern forms of antisemitism that stem from ignorance.”
Dana Griffen — a Jewish retired U.S. Navy commander with more than 26 years of active duty experience — joined Wednesday’s ceremony, and pointed out in his remarks that while Jews made up only around 2% of the U.S. population, their involvement in the military has always equaled or exceeded that level over the course of American history.
Earlier this year, Mayor Stoney distributed a letter encouraging his fellow mayors in the U.S. Conference of Mayors to join him in proclaiming and celebrating JAHM in their cities. Since then, more than 130 cities have signed onto the letter, and more than 60 mayors have formally declared May as Jewish American Heritage Month.
Mayor Stoney’s letter followed his participation as a keynote speaker at CAM’s Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism in Athens, Greece, last year. At that forum, Mayor Stoney and dozens of other municipal leaders from the U.S. — including New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, among others — and across the globe gathered together to share best practices in the collective effort against rising religious prejudice.
At the conclusion of the summit, which featured the unveiling of a new six-point municipal action plan against antisemitism, the participating mayors signed a pledge underscoring their commitment to combating rising Jew-hatred in their respective communities.
CAM has made a concerted nationwide effort in recent months to ask city and state governments to recognize and celebrate JAHM with relevant ceremonies, programs, and other activities. CAM officials were instrumental in the decision by all 26 governors in the Republican Governors Association (RGA) to jointly declare Jewish American Heritage Month in their states. Furthermore, CAM has been working in an advisory capacity with several aides to Democratic governors and other mayors to ensure JAHM is discussed and celebrated throughout the month of May.
Thus far, a total of 34 states have proclaimed May as Jewish American Heritage Month, many of them for the first time. A number of other Democratic governors indicated they plan to do so before the end of May as well.