Washington, D.C.—In 2006, the U.S. Congress designated Jewish Heritage Month to celebrate the talents and contributions of the American Jewish community to American society. Last week, the Friedlander Group of New York hosted a Congressional Tribute to distinguished Jewish Americans, a celebration of Jewish American Heritage, at a kosher luncheon in the U.S. Capitol Building.
The event began when Allen Rothenberg, the founding partner of The Rothenberg Law Firm, LLP, one of the honorees, sang the National Anthem in the presence of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). Rothenberg’s firm has an office in Hackensack, in addition to other New Jersey branches, and offices in New York City and Philadelphia. In his speech to the crowd, Senator Casey highlighted The Rothenberg Firm’s dedication to the fights for religious freedom and justice for their clients that are victims of personal injury and wrongful death incidents. Senator Casey also praised the firm’s ability in having so many close family members be able to work professionally and successfully together. In addition to Mr. Rothenberg’s wife, six of their eight children are partners in the firm, including local Bergen County residents, Marc Rothenberg and Ross Rothenberg.
Greg Rosenbaum, co-chair of the Jewish American Heritage Month Foundation acknowledged the event as an integral part of the Washington, DC celebrations. Rosenbaum introduced Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who quoted Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a great leader of the civil rights movement, who said, “What begins as inequality of some inevitably ends as inequality of all,” and highlighted his quest for economic justice based on Jewish teachings.
Senator Brown introduced honoree Daniel E. Kestenbaum of Bergenfield, New Jersey, the founding director of Kestenbaum & Company, a New York City-based boutique auction house. The core value of Kestenbaum’s company is to seek out and make available Judaic historical artifacts that are crucial to a keener understanding of one’s Jewish identity. He believes that access to important items of Judaica will lead to a better appreciation of “ethical citizenship.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire was there to honor Simcha Eichenstein, an advisor to the New York State Comptroller and predicted a great future for him in public service. She also paid tribute to former New Hampshire senator, Warren Rudman, as a great Jewish American leader. She presented awards to Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D. the spiritual leader of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and to ten founding members of the congregation, that is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary,
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said that Jewish Heritage Month strengthens his bonds to his heritage and the legacy of his parents. He said America gave his immigrant parents a chance for a better life and that America created an environment that enables the Jewish people to be strong for our faith and Israel. Senator Blumenthal also presented Eichenstein with an award and praised him for upholding the highest ethics and Jewish commitment to public service.
Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, Congressman Brad Schneider of Illinois, were all introduced by Master of Ceremonies Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, highlighted the theme of the Congressional Tribute, which is to commemorate Jewish American Heritage in honor of Jewish contributions in business, government, military service, political life, health and science.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the Executive Vice President of the America Friends of Lubavitch, thanked The Friedlander Group for organizing the Tribute Event, and highlighting unique aspects of American Jewish life. Rabbi Shemtov also gave a d’var Torah on the weekly parsha. Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts celebrated the honorees who “epitomize the values of the Jewish community and American experience.”
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, who conceived the idea of Jewish Heritage Month and sponsored the legislation that made it possible, was introduced by David Mandel, CEO of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services. She, too, acknowledged the importance of the Congressional Tribute to Jewish Americans in the Capitol, and said it was an important opportunity to educate members of Congress and all Americans about the positive impact Jews have had on American culture throughout American history.
Representative Wasserman-Schultz presented an award to Harvey and Gloria Kaylie, stalwart supporters of OHEL.