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A member of the Jewish community in southwest Missouri questions reasons behind this week's declaration of Jewish American Heritage Month in Missouri

Mara Cohen Ioannides holds a copy of her book Jews of Missouri: An Ornament to Israel
Mara Cohen Ioannides/Facebook
Mara Cohen Ioannides holds a copy of her book Jews of Missouri: An Ornament to Israel

Mara Cohen Ioannides said the proclamation is "confusing."

Governor Mike Parson this week proclaimed September 2023 Jewish American Heritage Month in Missouri even though the month is celebrated nationwide in May. And at least one member of the Jewish community in Springfield is questioning that decision.

Gov. Parson said he chose September to proclaim as Jewish American Heritage Month in the state since several major holidays are celebrated this month, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the start of Sukkot.

But Mara Cohen Ioannides who is Jewish pointed out those holidays aren’t always in September.

"Jews have a lunar calendar, not a solar calendar," she said. "And so, it appears to people who use the Gregorian calendar — the solar calendar — that Jewish holidays shift during the year. They don't on the Jewish calendar. So, it doesn't always happen that these holidays or these holy days — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two holiest days of the Jewish calendar — it doesn't always appear that they happen in September."

Ioannides called the proclamation “confusing.” May was chosen as national Jewish American Heritage Month because that was when the 350th anniversary of the American Jewish community took place in 2004. And she wonders why the proclamation came so late in the month.

She said she wants to know what the political agenda is behind this week's proclamation.

But, despite her concerns, Ioannides said she’s glad Parson and other Republican elected officials in the state made statements against antisemitism on Tuesday.

"I think they're profound, and they needed to be said. I would like to believe that he really means it," she said. "I want to see action. I don't want to see words."

Parson, answering a question from a reporter with NPR member station KRPS Thursday, explained why he decided to make the proclamation.

"I think there's a lot of people there that believe in the nation of Israel and the Jewish communities, and you know, we don't want there to be any hatred out there towards them or anyone else than we do that," said Parson. "I think you've got about three major Jewish holidays this month."

Parson said he thought it was a good time to recognize those holidays and let the Jewish people know Missouri supports “Israel as a nation and the Jewish communities across the state.”

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.