05 July 2009

The Jews and July 4th

Here's a bit of Jewish American history appropriate for this holiday, from the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Did you know:

- President George Washington depended on Haym Salomon for financial advice and assistance?

- Second US President John Adams wrote an 1808 letter criticizing French philosopher Voltaire's depiction of Jews, while expressing his respect for ancient Jewry?

- Third US president and Declaration of Independence drafter Thomas Jefferson may, according to some scholars, have been the first Jewish president? His rare Y-DNA is common in the Middle East. University of Arizona geneticist Michael Hammer compared the Jefferson Y-DNA and found close matches with four individuals. There was a perfect match to a Moroccan Jew, and two-step matches with another Moroccan Jew, a Kurdish Jew and an Egyptian.

- Fourth US President James Madison - Father of the Constitution - helped persuade states to ratify the new Constitution and in making the Bill of Rights part of it. Some say the Bill of Rights was modeled after the Ten Commandments. The first guarantees the separation of church and state. He was the first president to appoint a Jew to a US diplomatic post.

- Founding Father Benjamin Franklin pledged five pounds (worth about $800 in 2009 dollars) in support of a synagogue for “the people of the Hebrew society in the city of Philadelphia.” The building was the first home of the historic Congregation Mikveh Israel.

- First Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton was born on the British island of Nevis (British West Indies) on January 11, 1755. His mother Rachel, possibly Jewish, was married to Michael Lavine, a Jew of either German or Danish background. On St. Croix, as a teenager, Alexander learned Hebrew. One of Hamilton’s grandsons acknowledged his Jewish roots in his grandfather's biography.

- Sephardic Londoner Francis Salvador was the first Jew to hold elective office in the colonies and was the first Jew to be killed in the Revolution, when, as head of a force of frontiersmen, he was captured and scalped.

- Other Jewish Revolutionary War individuals were Abraham Levy, Joseph Simon and Phillip Russell, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. At Valley Forge, they supplied the army with Henry Rifles. Jewish trading merchants became privateers and fought the British at sea.

Read more at the link above. The article is by Rabbi Dr. Moshe Weisblum, spiritual leader of Kneseth Israel Congergation in Annapolis.

1 comment:

  1. jessica in NY3:08 PM

    Re Hamilton:

    Ron Chernow's biography of Hamilton has a different take: There is nothing to indicate that Rachel was Jewish. Lavien (possibly with Jewish roots) was his mother's first husband whom she abandonded since he was an ogre. Hamiton's biological father was Scottish and the son of a laird.