11 Books to Read During National Jewish American Heritage Month

May is National Jewish American Heritage Month, a celebration of the contribution of Jewish Americans to every field of science and culture, including business, medicine, sports, music, film, and government.

Related: Where to Go & What to Do: Jewish American Heritage Month 

A number of PJ Library and PJ Our Way selections tell the stories of famous Jewish Americans or circumstances that are unique to the American Jewish experience. Here’s a sampling of these books, with something for every age group.


Kids Under 5

Mendel's Accordion

Mendel's Accordion by Heidi Smith Hyde

Recommended for ages 4 to 5

In this winning story, the memory of a young man’s long-forgotten accordion playing resurfaces when his great-grandson comes upon his instrument.

Lights Out Shabbat

Lights Out Shabbat by Sarene Shulimson

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

A young boy visiting his grandparents for Shabbat has a wonderful time despite (or maybe, in part, because of) a rare Georgia snowstorm that causes the power to go out.

The Only One Club

The Only One Club by Jane Naliboff

Recommended for ages 4 to 5

As the only Jewish child in her class, a young girl not only learns that each person is unique, but is able to share this understanding with her classmates.

Ages 5+

Emma's Poem

Emma's Poem by Linda Glaser

Recommended for ages 7 to 8

Emma Lazarus was raised in a wealthy Jewish American family in 1880’s New York City, where she was moved by the plight of immigrants. As a young woman, asked to write a poem to raise money for a pedestal for the proposed Statue of Liberty, she composed “The New Colossus” and so became the voice of the Statue of Liberty. This is the story of the difference she made in her world.

A Poem for Peter

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Recommended for ages 8+

When Ezra Jack Keats was growing up, he knew what it was like to feel different and left out. So when he created his famous picture book, A Snowy Day, he had an idea about how to write and draw his main character, Peter.

Brave Girl

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel

Recommended for ages 7 to 8

Just because Clara Lemlich is a young immigrant doesn’t mean she’s going to let factory owners treat workers poorly. After all, equality and a fair shot is what America is all about -- and no one understands that better than this brave girl.

Hammerin' Hank

Hammerin' Hank by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Recommended for ages 8+

This story introduces Hank Greenberg, baseball superstar and the first Jewish inductee to the Hall of Fame. Greenberg’s story takes place at a time when “outsiders” were breaking through barriers in American professional sports.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Recommended for ages 8+

Disagreeing does not necessarily make you disagreeable. Just ask Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman on the US Supreme Court. When she was a young girl, lots of people told her she didn’t have what it took to do the things she wanted to do, but she disagreed -- and proved them wrong. Now she shows the whole world that sometimes it’s important to say “I dissent!”

Related: Books About Superheros

Middle Grade Books

Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein

Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein by Susan Goldman Rubin

Recommended for ages 10+

What do you do if you love music but your father disapproves? If you’re Leonard Bernstein, you do whatever it takes to prove him wrong! This is the inspiring biography of a young man who held onto his dreams – and became a star.

Who is Steven Spielberg?

Who is Steven Spielberg? by Stephanie Spinner

Recommended for ages 9+

Have you ever seen the movies E.T., An American Tail or The BFG? Have you ever watched the cartoons Tiny Toons or Anamaniacs? Steven Spielberg helped to make all of them! Read the fascinating story of how Steven Spielberg got started and became the most famous director of all time!

Women Who Broke the Rules: Judy Blume

Women Who Broke the Rules: Judy Blume by Kathleen Krull

Recommended for ages 9+

When the author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and the Fudge books first started writing, she was told she had no talent! Read how Judy Blume went from failure to 2,000 fan letters a month by writing about what kids’ lives are really like.

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