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Remarks by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to the ADL Centennial Summit

Honoring Jewish American Heritage Month

Thank you for your kind introduction.

I am delighted to join you all to honor the ADL for 100 passionate years of imagining a world without hate!

As one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations dedicated to promoting intercultural and interfaith understanding, the Anti-Defamation League’s reputation is exceptional—and for good reason.

From calling out anti-Semitism across the globe to defending the civil liberties of all Americans, the Anti-Defamation League has guided our nation and our world toward tolerance, justice, and peace. 

For a century, the ADL has ensured perpetual progress, taking up new civil rights fights in each generation and standing up to bigotry in any form. 

We would never have made it this far without the ADL’s passion, activism, and vision.  

You know hate when you see it.  You know hate when you hear it.  And you stand up to it, you stare it down, and you defeat it.

Thank you for the incredible work that you do. 

We are here together this evening because of the natural harmony between Jewish faith and action.

Our tradition and our history compel us to give back to our society and make the world a better place.

The intimate connection between Judaism and social justice is why I count on the Jewish community, our community, to be vocal advocates for the issues that matter in public policy debates.

I know the depth of my commitment stems from my family dinner table, where my parents taught my brother and me the importance of our Jewish heritage and obligation to give back to the community in return for our blessings in life. 

That commitment is an essential part of what I do every day – as the first Jewish woman elected to Congress from the state of Florida, I bring our community’s values to bear on our policy priorities.

This dedication to social justice, rooted in our history, results in an endless desire to reshape and rebuild communities around the globe, starting in our own backyards.

In the words of the Prophet Jeremiah: “Seek the wellbeing of the city in which you dwell – for in its peace, you shall find peace.”

These words have been put into action across the nation; Jews are devoted to social justice, civil rights, and rebuilding the world, one city at a time.

The Jewish community has led with compassion on domestic and international public policy issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, caring for the elderly, immigration reform, and Middle East peace.

We know what it’s like to be the downtrodden in society, rejected and discriminated against, and completely torn apart. 

Now, we remain vigilant against anti-Semitism, and work together to help others in need.

As a voice of conscience and social justice in Washington and throughout our nation, our community and our country are stronger because we put our values to action.

Unfortunately, as you at the ADL know all too well, anti-Semitism is not remote to us as Americans.

Unfortunately, it is a scourge that rears its ugly head in our own backyard.

The foundation of our country is built upon the strengths of our unique cultures and backgrounds. Diversity is America’s strength.

Yet among this diversity, ignorance and intolerance still exists, and we as the Jewish community have often been its victims. 

Though it’s easy to forget, Jews make up only two percent of our nation’s population, and therefore, most Americans have had few interactions with Jewish people and their traditions.

But despite the persistence of anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, in recent years we have been able to promote more appreciation for the multi-cultural fabric of the United States. 

I strongly believe that it is our responsibility to continue this education, celebrating diversity and learning its lessons.

The Jewish community of Miami particularly understood the importance of this education, and in 2005, they came to me with the idea of creating a national Jewish American Heritage Month in May.

Immediately and without reservation, I introduced a resolution to create JAHM – as we now call it.  Like Women’s History Month or Black History Month, JAHM sends a resounding message that the history of our people in America is an integral part of our nation’s story.

President Bush proclaimed the first Jewish American Heritage Month in May 2006.

I am pleased to say that JAHM has been proclaimed by the President annually and that communities across the country have been honoring it ever since!

It’s a privilege to address you on the eve of the eighth annual Jewish American Heritage Month, as we embark on our yearly work to share and celebrate the American Jewish story.

Our entire community must heed the call to spread the message of JAHM, leading events and programs across the country 

As Hillel famously asked, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?”

The ADL puts to practice these questions and values every day.

There’s no doubt about it – we live in complicated times in an increasingly complex world.

For all the progress our country has made and the reforms we have espoused, there still remains a great distance to go on our long march toward freedom.

The work that I do as a Member of Congress is driven by my determination to ensure that my children, along with all our children, grow up in a world not rife with hatred and bigotry – but full of justice and equality. 

Though we have a long way to go, I am moved by all of you coming together to rid hatred from our midst.

Thanks to your courage and your tireless work, we can all work on bending the arc of history toward justice.

Thanks to your courage and your tireless work, we can all imagine a world without hate.

Together, we must be unwavering in our support of our community’s values, so that not only the Jewish people, but all people, may go from strength to strength.

Thank you.

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz addresses ADL’s Centennial Summit in Washington, DC.
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‘Our tradition and our history compel us to give back to our society and make the world a better place.’

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