To celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month in May 2021, the Library is showcasing a research guide for Jewish American studies, curated by our Jewish Studies librarian Prof. Izabella Taler, which features streaming videos and other e-resources!
Some History & Background
As noted on the Library of Congress’ commemoration site, Jewish American Heritage Month began with President Carter’s proclamation in April 1980 in “which he spoke about the bountiful contributions made by the Jews to the culture and history of the United States.” The month has been honored ever since as the Jewish American community has continued to change and expand.
According to the American Jewish Yearbook, by 2019 the US Jewish population was almost 7 million, with Jews of Color representing at least 6% of American Jews. The states with the largest Jewish population include New York (25%), California (17%), Florida (9%), and New Jersey (8%). More information can be found at this terrific site on Jewish American Heritage Month created by the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and other federal agencies.
In 1999, photographer Vincent Giordano made an unplanned visit to the small Kehila Kedosha Janina (KKJ) synagogue on New York’s Lower East Side. He knew little about Judaism or synagogues, and even less about the Romaniote Jewish tradition of which KKJ, built in 1927, is the lone North American representative. In this he was not alone. Romaniotes are among the least known of Jewish communities. Beginning in 2001 and guided by members of the KKJ community, Giordano documented the synagogue and its religious art of the congregation using film, video, and audio. This included trips to Greece to document KKJ’s mother city of Ioannina, and its small Jewish community.
In 2019 the Giordano family donated the archive of Vincent’s work to Queens College, where it is a major part of the Hellenic American Project and is preserved as part of the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Special Collections and Archives has not yet processed the physical materials in the Vincent Giordano collection. Fortunately, we were able to use scans of Giordano’s prints and negatives to create a new online exhibit “Romaniote Memories, a Jewish Journey from Ioannina, Greece to Manhattan: Photographs by Vincent Giordano.” Many of these images have never been presented in public before.
The exhibition is curated by Samuel Gruber, President of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments and designed by Annie Tummino, Head of Special Collections and Archives, Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library. The opening reception, featuring a conversation with curators, distinguished guests, and friends, will take place via Zoom on Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 5 pm (register here).
The exhibition is sponsored by the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library, Hellenic American Project, and Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College, as well as the International Center for Jewish Monuments, an independent non-profit organization. The Library and Center for Jewish Studies will be teaming up to offer a paid internship for a student to help process and catalog the Giordano collection during the next academic year.