Jewish American Heritage Month

Before the month of May passes us by, we want to be sure to recognize Jewish American Heritage month and the contributions of Jewish Americans to U.S. history and culture.

In June 1976, Mrs. Ford traveled to New York City to attend the Jewish National Fund gala dinner. According to their website, “Since its founding in 1901, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has been committed to building for Israel’s future as well as responding in times of crisis and need. A vital part of Zionist history, JNF achieved its goal of purchasing the land that would become the State of Israel, then helped to develop that land into a thriving nation—by planting over 250 million trees, building more than 200 dams and reservoirs, developing more than 250,000 acres of land, and creating over 1,000 parks.”

At that gala in 1976, shortly before he was to present the First Lady with a Bible on behalf of the JNF, Rabbi Maurice Sage collapsed on stage from a heart attack. While Secret Service officers attempted to save him, Mrs. Ford offered up the following prayer:

East Wing Press Releases, June 22, 1976. “Mrs. Ford Prayer at Jewish National Fund Dinner.”
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library
First Lady Betty Ford offers a prayer for Jewish National Fund president Rabbi Maurice Sage who collapsed on stage from a heart attack just before presenting her with a Bible at the Fund’s gala dinner. The dinner, held on June 22, 1976, inaugurated the American Bicentennial National Park in Israel.
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

Unfortunately, Rabbi Sage passed away soon afterwards. Here is the Bible that he was to present Mrs. Ford with that evening. She kept it until her death, displaying it in the Ford home in Rancho Mirage, California. It is now on display at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Elaborate, silver bound book entitled, “The Holy Scriptures: A Jewish Bible According to the Masoretic Text.” Inscription inside reads, “To our beloved First Lady, Mrs. Betty Ford, who graced our festive occasion with her shining spirit.” 
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum