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Reflections on Jewish American Identity: David Kleinhandler

May 27, 2022

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, we spoke to Central Board Member David Kleinhandler about what Jewish American identity means to him.

Where did you grow up/where are you from? 

David Kleinhandler: New York, New York

What is your most meaningful Jewish memory, experience, or moment?  

David Kleinhandler: My first trip is Israel as a 5 year old and the life cycle events of my marriage, my daughter’s baby naming, the brises of my two sons, my oldest reading from the Torah in Jerusalem and his Bar Mitzvah. 

What does being Jewish mean to you? 

David Kleinhandler: It is a connection to the past, a set of values to live by and a road map/guide book on how to live life.  Being Jewish brings happiness and sadness all at the same time.  It is a responsibility. 

Is there a Jewish American figure who inspires you?

David Kleinhandler: I take my inspiration from my two grandfathers.  My maternal grandfather was able to leave Austria before World War 2 and eventually settled in Jerusalem.  He fought for the creation of the State of Israel and then moved to the United States where he raised a family and started several successful businesses.  He always supported Israel with both time and money.  My paternal grandfather fought the Nazis in World War 2, came back from the war and also started a business.  He raised his children (including my father) with a strong work ethic, commitment to family and as proud Jews.

In your opinion, is there something special/significant/unique about being a Jewish American? What does the intersection of these identities mean to you? 

David Kleinhandler: Being Jewish American allows me to be part of the greatest, freest, safest and most successful Jewish community outside of Israel in the history of the world.  We are able to practice our religion and thrive in society.  In the history of the world, no other Jewish community outside of Israel has been able to say that. The Jewish American community faces challenges, but we have the ability and freedom to counter those challenges. For that, I am lucky.

Thank you, David! And happy Jewish American Heritage Month to all. We look forward sharing more of our community’s stories and perspectives throughout the year.  

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