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Gov. Kevin Stitt proclaimed the month of May as Jewish American Heritage Month in Oklahoma during a ceremony on Monday at the state Capitol.
Adam Beren, founder of the Combat Antisemitism Movement, said Oklahoma was the 31st state in the U.S. to partner with his organization to highlight the many ways Jewish Americans have contributed to the country by proclaiming the special designation for the month.
Monday’s ceremony was hosted by the governor’s office in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City and the Combat Antisemitism Movement, an Israel-based organization with an office in Washington, D.C. Beren said similar ceremonies were being held in more than 150 cities across 31 states.
Proclamation ‘gave us all hope to better combat antisemitism’
Stitt shared a few remarks with the crowd of about 40 people before reading a Jewish American Heritage Month proclamation.
“As we gather together to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, we’re reminded of the values that make our state and our nation great,” he said. “Among these values is religious freedoms for everyone, so in Oklahoma, we are so proud to honor and respect the religious diversities of our communities. We’re home to thousands of Jewish Oklahomans and we celebrate the richness of our cultures and the contributions that each bring to our state.”
Rachel Johnson, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, said the federation was grateful to Stitt’s office for hosting the ceremony.
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“Thank you for declaring today Jewish American Heritage Month because we are not just Jews, but we’re Jewish Americans and we’re Jewish Okies,” she told the governor.
After the ceremony, she said the proclamation “gave us all hope to better combat antisemitism because, while we wish it wasn’t still happening, there are still antisemitic incidents occurring in schools.”
Also on hand for the ceremony were other representatives of the Jewish Federation-OKC, along with leaders from Oklahoma Israel Exchange, Hillel Foundation at the University of Oklahoma and Chabad Community Center for Jewish Life and Learning.
Barry J. Schneider, a retired U.S. Army major from Fort Worth, Texas, spoke on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S. organization.
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Attorney General Gentner Drummond and House Speaker Charles McCall shared remarks, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat was also among the elected state leaders who attended the event.
Event was governor’s first event with state’s Jewish faith community since controversial prayer video
The ceremony was the first public event Stitt has held in conjunction with Oklahoma’s Jewish faith community since several leaders of the Jewish Federation-OKC and the Jewish Federation of Tulsa, along with an Oklahoma City rabbi, met with him in January after he claimed “every square inch” of Oklahoma for Jesus. He made the statement as he gave a prayer that was recorded and was subsequently the focus of a viral social media video that sparked controversy both in Oklahoma and nationally.
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Stitt consistently has been outspoken about his Christian faith, beginning with his first gubernatorial campaign and throughout his first term. However, his comments, made shortly after his successful reelection bid in November 2023, hit a sour note with some Oklahoma Jewish leaders, prompting a Jewish contingent to request the January meeting with him to share their concerns about his statement. The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma; the American Jewish Committee, a national Jewish advocacy group; and officials with the Freedom From Religion Foundation also spoke out against his comments.
Monday, Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, spiritual leader of the Chabad-OKC, encouraged those gathered to share their light to help dispel the darkness of hate and division.
“Most Americans have deeply rooted core values that are the underpinnings of our foundational values that we see in our Declaration of Independence and Pledge of Allegiance,” he said. “A day like today has to inspire us, in voice and in deed, to bring to expression those deep-seated values that we know to be true.”
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma governor declares ‘Jewish American Heritage Month,’ giving hope to ‘Jewish Okies’