Sunday, June 25, 2023

The Yekkes Are Coming-Part 4 American Jewish Heritage


The Yekkes Are Coming

Part 4 American Jewish Heritage

For the video of the discussion:


Of all the Jewish communities in recent history, the most successful in assimilating and mastering western culture and society were the German Jews, both in Europe and America.

German Jews gained the nickname of YEKKE , by common assumption from the word in German Jacke. That referred to the short coat that the Germans wore as opposed to the long coats worn by the supposedly backwards Polish Jews. It was to have been a sign of modernity.

Austrian vintage short 
jacke- jacket

Hungarian Bekishe Kapote


 There is a joke on the name which says it really is the initials of  Yehudi Kashe Oref, a Jew who is stubborn and stiff necked.Or as another joke has it, when God first calls out to Adam after the sin of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, he says in Hebrew ayeka which means “where are you” but sounds like a German Jew, A yekke.!

 By this term, we include Jews from the emerging Germany (which did not yet exist as a country) as well as those areas under German-language rule: Silesia—(Western Poland) under the Prussians, And the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which covered what would be modern Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Galicia( western Ukraine) and more. Deutschekulturkreise-The German Cultural Circle.

 This was a glorious page in American Jewish history for within a generation of arrival, they took their place in American Society and they even created an aristocracy of sorts. This became the topic of a very popular book Our Crowd by Stephen Birmingham. We had our Jewish grand Dukes in business : Macys( taken over by a Strauss) ,Gimbels ,Abraham and Strauss. Levi’s jeans, Wall Street's Lehman Brothers, Kuhn Loeb and company. in the arts we had the Guggenheims of the Guggenheim museum fame and in philanthropy we had the Schiffs and the Warburgs,in journalism the Sulzbergers and the Ochs and the Pulitzers and then we had our statesman also, Louis Brandeis, Herbert Lehman and more.

The origins-very humble


.What was American Jewry after independence?  Mostly of Spanish & Portuguese origin-these families had their place high in American society. Only a handful-3,000 in 1776, 4000 by 1820 ,In 1850,jumped up to 50,000, by 1860-150,000.Mostly from  Germany or Germanic speaking areas. Why did they suddenly come here?

 . Turn of  18th Century-French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars-new ideas of libery, equality,fraternity. It caught on, especially with Jews, (who had least of these three). Especially in the areas that had been under Napoleon' s rule-Germany, Austria, Italy. France.

The revolutions for rights  were soon put down. Jews were caught in middle. All their hopes were crushed and they left for  the New world were Jews could be allowed to flourish.

[ The century form 1820s to 1920s saw  the largest mass migration of Jews in world history,  one half of all Jews moved from Europe and the Middle East to the Americas and to distant parts of Asia and Africa.]

 Eventually that wave of immigration would come to an end as the European governments began to restore general rights. So in 1850 ,the Prussian constitution granted civil rights to Jews and in 1871 with the new German empire ,those rights were extended to all Jews in the German domains.

 This German Jewish wave would eventually be overtaken by another wave of Jews from the Russian and Polish territories after 1881, but by that time they're already taking their place in industry commerce and the liberal professions.

 How are these new Jewish immigrants accepted by their brothers ,the Sephardic grandees who had preceded them? By now the Sephardim were successful businessmen, sophisticated and highly Americanized, and they looked down upon these German Jewish immigrants .

 They were poor ,soiled, they looked underfed ,they came in steerage class, they didn't speak English ,they had heavy German accents, they had relatively little education ,and they were aggressive and uncultivated, and worst of all they were  peddlers, the socially lowest occupation.

 The Sephardic Jews even closed the doors of the synagogues to membership to these newcomers.

 There would be an increasing social split also within the Jewish community ,of the “better class” of Jews compared to the “vulgar” Jews or the “refined Hebrew” ladies and gentlemen compared to Jews.

 So how did these new Jews start out?


German Jews and Peddling in America | Immigrant Entrepreneurship

( Hasia Diner, NYU)

Most of the men among these immigrants opted for on-the-road peddling as their start-up occupation in their new American home. Those who did not peddle owned shops, peddler warehouses, and manufactured the goods that Jewish peddlers sold. The near universality of the decision of so many German Jewish immigrants to begin their lives in America as peddlers shaped much of their subsequent lives as well as of the families and communities they built.

 The peddlers operated on a weekly cycle. They left their base on Sunday or Monday, depending on how far they had to go. … They peddled all week and on Friday headed back to the town from which they had gotten their goods. Here on the Jewish Sabbath and, depending on geography, on Sundays as well, they rested... .. Saturday night, after sundown, when the restrictions of the Sabbath lifted, the peddlers came to the shopkeepers and or other creditors to whom they owed money, paid up from the goods they had sold that week, and then filled up their bags, ready for another week on the road.

 …they sold a jumble of goods that might be considered quasi-luxuries. In their bags they carried needles, threads, lace, ribbons, mirrors, pictures and picture frames, watches, jewelry, eye glasses, linens, bedding, and other sundry goods, sometimes called “Yankee notions.” 



Door to Door: How Jewish Peddlers Changed the World, One Household at a Time (

( from the same author, book Roads Taken: The Great Jewish Migrations to the New World and the Peddlers Who Forged the Way, )

What was it like:

they sold on the installment plan, so once they made a sale they had reason to go back to the same house and, after getting payment for what was owed, open their bags and say, “Oh, by the way, this week I have...”

… also.. May I lodge here for the evening?

Crossed racial lines:

… they were forced, by the dictates of the market, to treat their African American customers just like they treated their white customers. So at a time when, in a place like Helena, Arkansas, a black person wasn’t allowed to try on clothes in a store, and had to get off the sidewalk to let a white person pass, the peddler comes into the house, takes of his hat, and bows to the African-American woman. He calls her “ma’am,” not “girl.” And she can slam the door in his face if she wants to! ..  But the Jew comes in and has no power over her, so the tables are turned. He has to be deferential to her. That must have been an amazing revelation to African Americans, or Africans in South Africa, or Native Americans on reservations—to know that they didn’t have to always be treated the way they were in the larger sphere. 


Eventually, they would save up their pennies, buy a cart, then a cart and horse, then a store ( and still peddle; on the side). From the seller of notions and ends of cloth to big and bigger.


Here’s a typical story: Adam Gimbel

Gimbel was born to a Jewish family in Bavaria in 1817 where he worked in the local baron's vineyard.[1][2][3] In May 1835, he immigrated to the United States paying his fare by working as a ship's hand.[2] Arriving in New Orleans, he worked two years as a dock worker.[2] Noticing the itinerant peddlers who moved up and down the river peddling their goods, he saved his earnings and purchased an inventory of needles, thread, and cloth and headed north in July 1837.[2] He printed listings of his goods and nailed them to trees along his route.[2] After five years, he was able to purchase a horse and carriage and increase the variety of goods he carried.[2]

In 1842, he arrived at Vincennes, Indiana near where the Wabash River joined the Ohio Rive

It was a bustling town, and he sold out his entire inventory in one week.[2] …

Native Americans were particularly attracted to the standardized prices as they were often charged higher prices when negotiating.[2] Gimbel used the motto "Fairness and Equality to All Patrons." (Wikipedia)

 He went on to open multiple department stores to end up with this:

( Wikimedia)

 Only a block from the famous competitor, Macy’s ,Gimbel’s is now shut, but its affiliate still operates Sax Fifth Avenue.

 Jews now made their way into different aspects of American society:

 Macy’s was eventually taken over by two brothers, Nathan and Isadore Straus, but…


(The American Jewish Yearbook)

This was the Straus brother that did not go into the business!!

 Born in Ottenberg, Rhenish Bavaria, on December 23, 1850… his father, Lazarus Straus, decided to emigrate to America, landing in Philadelphia in the Spring of 1852. He settled in Talbotton, Georgia, whither he brought his family. This family, the only Jews in the little town, were received with kindness and hospitality. …1867 he passed the examinations for Columbia College. Upon graduation he was honored with the "Class Poem", and in 1871 he entered the Columbia Law School from which he was graduated in 1873.

 … In 1887 he was appointed by President Cleveland as United States Minister to Turkey, largely upon the suggestion of Henry Ward Beecher. ..journey to Egypt, Palestine and Syria and inspected [American based mission schools] schools. He defended American and also British agents who were engaged in the sale of the Bible, and gave his warm support to Robert College. When in Palestine, his attention was engaged by the discrimination practiced there against the Jews.

 [Became an advocate for Jews under Tsarist Russia and helped Herzl. Long time Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, advisor to US administrations on many issues—and a visibly loyal Jew, active in his synagogue]

[Note: It was recently announced that the pilot of the ill-fated subermersible Titan was married to a descendent of Isadore and Ida Straus, who had given their life jackets to save others on the similarly ill-fated Titanic!]

 Another example-Supreme Court Judge Louis Brandeis


( Wikipedia)

The child of Jewish immigrants to Kentucky from Prague, then the Austro Hungarian empire. They fled the counter revolutions of 1848 and settled in Louisville,, operating a grain merchandising business. They  made sure that he had a good education and he and he graduated from Harvard Law School . He entered legal practice and soon made such a good reputation for himself that he rose to the position of justice on the United states Supreme Court. Probably one of the most important and concepts that he or gave to America was the idea of a right to privacy. That concept influenced the framing of many laws to the point that it became recognized by the Supreme Court itself. He also promoted the concept of freedom of speech in American law.

This was the concurring decision ( with Justice Holmes:


Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of free speech to free men from bondage of irrational fears ... Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty ...( Wikipedia)

While his family was not particularly observant and they're even accusations that they were associated with the messianic Jacob frank movement in Europe, as he matured he found greater connection with the Jewish community to the point that he was a major supporter of Zionism and in his honor we have such institutions as brandeis university and the brandeis bardeen camp here in Los Angeles.


 In the field of journalism-Adolph Ochs worked as an office boy for the local paper in Knoxville,TN, And then clerk in a grocery store while attending night school in Rhode Island. From there, to work odd jobs at the local paper, and at age 19, borrowed $250 from the family to buy controlling interest in the Chattanooga Times and then become its publisher. He continued to work with different papers buying up papers and making some profit here and there and then at the age of 38 he borrowed money to buy the failing New York Times for $75,000.


 From there on all else is history and his newspaper has become always the paper of note of the United states. It is still held by members of the family descendants of Ochs and the in-laws, the Sulzbergers.


In finance,

A Jewish immigrant from Mainz in Hesse, Abraham Kuhn, came to the US in 1840 and married his wife, Regina,the sister of his future business partner ,Solomon Loeb. He began his career like so many as a peddler from being a peddler to manufacturing men's clothing and dry goods business till they entered banking. By 1867 they had opened a company Kuhn Loeb and company made it into a major financial powerhouse brought in another family member Jacob Schiff and that company grew to become the second largest investment bank in the United states.

 But this wave of German Jews was not focused only on business. It was focused on creating a Jewish life that would match the new American civilization. So they reacted to the pressure to assimilate in many ways losing Shabbat for example to be competitive in the non-Jewish world, and Kashruth was difficult in these isolated communities and certainly study was impossible with an absence of schools and teachers. Nevertheless a strong Jewish bond remained. Even the very smallest of communities set up synagogues they then set up many of the institutions and organizations of American Jewry today: Jewish federations for philanthropy for example,fraternal orders like Bnai Brith.

 They retained certain key customs such as Bris ,the bar mitzvah, the Jewish wedding ,Jewish burial traditions, and High Holy days. ,

 They sought to create a form of Judaism would be particular to the spirit of America in the 19th century. As far back as 1824 4,7 members of the Charleston synagogue led by Isaac Harby secceeded and created a Reformed Society of Israelites and then in 1841 they would get their first Rabbi, Gustav Poznanski. He would declare this country as “our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this House of God our temple. “That would be the new American motif.

 . They were influenced very much by the wave of European enlightenment and revolution that they had experience in Europe and the early movements for enlightenment and reform in those years. Some radical reformers stood out.

 For example Rabbi David Einhorn who was a famous abolitionist and was expelled from Baltimore for taking a stand against slavery in 1861 as the civil war was breaking out. He was an eloquent speaker publisher of magazines and of the official reform prayer book ,of which I once had a copy. it was appropriately enough all in German since that was still the language that they were speaking.

Gebetbuch der Israelitische Reform Gemeinden ( from my personal collection)


But the great institution builder for the new American Judaism was someone who tried to bridge between the new reform and the old orthodox world, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Weiss.

He was a scholar writer publisher editor theologian and historian very prolific author of 12 novels 2 plays edited two periodicals one in English and one in German was active in creating civic institutions. His main concept was Minhag America which meant a form of worship that would be the American version of the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic forms of worship. That would become the original Union Prayer book. And they created the Union of American Hebrew Congregations with the intention of the word Union ,not Reform but Union. And then he created the Hebrew Union college and again with the concept of Union college, not reform not orthodox ,but a union. Unfortunately it's all blew up on the very first banquet when treif  food was served in violation agreed upon the policies and the traditionalists walked out.

 So that would become then the start of the Reform going one way and Conservative going the other way in American Judaism.

This new Conservative approach which reflected what was happening also in Europe at that time sought to apply Jewish scholarship to modifying Jewish practice in the needs of the time without abandoning it. To some extent the first people behind it were Sephardim ,such as Saboto Morais ,the 1st president of the Jewish Theological Seminary and this school brought to it solid scholars trained in Wissenschaft, which was the critical science of Judaism, such as Benjamin Szold, Marcus Jastrow ,Alexander Kohut.

 The most prominent figure of American Judaism in this time was Rabbi Isaac Leeser. He was an early forerunner of the Conservative movement, produced an early edition of the pentateuch that afterwards  was used by synagogues in the United states ,published the major Jewish journal the Occident and the stablished the first official Sunday school, and he established it together with Rebecca Gratz who it is said was the model for the beauty insert Isaac Walters Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. 

The further development of American Judaism would soon rest in the hands of a new wave of Jewish immigrants, this time from Eastern Europe. This wave would swallow up all of that had come before them.









Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The Foundations of American Judaism—the first century- rascals and exemplars Part 3 of American Jewish Heritage


The Foundations of American Judaism—the first century- rascals and exemplars

Part 3 of American Jewish Heritage

For the recording of this discussion go to:


The founding fathers were excited about opening the doors to all religions—yet, as much as they accepted Jews, they did not know how to digest them:



on the Jewish people as follows: II. Jews. . Their system was Deism; that is, the belief in one only God. But their ideas of him and of his attributes were degrading and injurious.  Their Ethics were not only imperfect, but often irreconcilable with the sound dictates of reason and morality, as they respect intercourse with those around us; and repulsive and anti-social, as respecting other nations. They needed reformation, therefore, in an eminent degree.  Elsewhere, Jefferson attacked Jewish theology .. which supposes the God of infinite justice to punish the sins of the fathers upon their children, unto the third and fourth generation,"

 Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 12 October 1813  Referring to an academic study on Judaism: He quotes:

To compare the morals of the old, with those of the new testament, …(he goes on to quote a scholar)

… Enfield, his epitomiser, concludes in these words. “‘Ethics were so little studied among the Jews, that, in their whole compilation called the Talmud, there is only one treatise on moral subjects.. … what a wretched depravity of sentiment & manners must have prevailed before such corrupt maxims could have obtained credit! it is impossible to collect from these writings a consistent series of moral Doctrine.’”


On the other hand:

1820 September 1. (Jefferson to Jacob De La Motta). "[De La Motta's Discourse Delivered at the Consecration of the Synagogue of the Hebrew Congregation, Mikva Israel: In the City of Savannah, Georgia ...] …he is happy in the restoration, of the Jews particularly, to their social rights, & hopes they will be seen taking their seats on the benches of science, as preparatory to their doing the same at the board of government."[4]


President John Adams would come to be one of the earliest supporters of Zionism, before Zionism:

  1808 letter criticizing ..,.Voltaire, “How is it possible [that he] should represent the Hebrews in such a contemptible light? They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a Bauble in comparison of the Jews. They have given religion to three quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily, than any other Nation ancient or modern."

 In a correspondence to Mordecai Manuel Noah ( more later)

 In 1819, Noah sent Adams a copy of his …, Travels in England, France Spain and the Barbary States. …, "Farther I could find it in my heart to wish that you had been at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites . . . & marching with them into Judea & making a conquest of that country & restoring your nation to the dominion of it. For I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation."

President John Adams Embraces A Jewish Homeland (1819) (

 On the other hand, like so many of the Enlightened of his day, Judaism itself puzzled him:

I believe [that] . . . once restored to an independent government & no longer persecuted they [the Jews] would soon wear away some of the asperities and peculiarities of their character & possibly in time become liberal Unitarian christians for your Jehovah is our Jehovah & your God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob is our God.


 Americans still kept with them old world assumptions about Jews. Thus during the Civil War,

When General Grant tried to cut off supplies and funding to the rebel Confederacy, he tried to ban all peddlers from his area of control.


 In reference to Jewish traders Grant said: "they come in with their carpet sacks in spite of all that can be done to prevent it. The Jews seem to be a privileged class that can travel anywhere. They will land at any wood yard or landing on the river and make their way through the country. If not permitted to buy cotton themselves they will act as agents for someone else who will be at a military post with a Treasury permit to receive cotton and pay for it in Treasury notes, which the Jew will buy up at an agreed rate, paying gold


 So he declared:

Head Quarters 13th Army Corps,

Department of the Tennessee,

Oxford, Miss. Dec. 17, 1862.

I.. The Jews, as a class, violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department, and also Department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department.

II.. Within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order by Post Commanders, they will see that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from Head Quarters.

General Order No. 11 (1862) - Wikipedia


It may well be that he was upset because his own father was in partnership with two Jews in the cotton business!

 In any event, it caused an uproar, Jewish officers threatened to resign, and it became a political football . President Lincoln ordered this immediately rescinded, and Grant soon ate his own words, apologizing that it was his aides fault for the wording. In later history, interestingly enough,  President, Grant became a friend to the Jewish community, and appointed the largest number of Jews to government position till his day!


These early years saw many unusual Jews, adventurers, such as

The notorious pirate ( Privateer) Jean Lafitte.

 The Dread Jewish Pirate Jean Lafitte - Tablet Magazine

 One Jewish pirate who has been proved to be genuine is Jean Lafitte. Jean was born in 1780 and died around 1823….

His  Journal de Jean Lafitte, Lafitte claims to have been born in Bordeaux, France, in 1780, the child of Sephardic Jewish parents whose converso grandmother and mother fled from Spain to France in 1765 after his maternal grandfather was executed by the Inquisition for “Judaizing”.

He was a French pirate and privateer who operated primarily in the Gulf of Mexico…

…Later, in return for a legal pardon, Lafitte and his fleet helped Andrew Jackson (later, president of the United States) defend New Orleans from the British. After Jackson secured victory, he paid tribute to the Lafitte brothers’ efforts and those of their fellow privateers.



The only Jewish Emperor in history! The only Emperor of the United States of America:

Emperor Joshua Abraham Norton I

 The son of English Jews, he came to San Francisco, California for the gold rush, with the benefit of family money of $40,000. He invested his money well, until he had one investment too many, and went bankrupt.


Not one to be too upset by the setback,  On September 17, 1859, he published the following notice in the San Francisco Bulletin: “At the peremptory request of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last nine years and ten months past of San Francisco, California, declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States, and Protector of Mexico.” Applaud Emperor Norton I!

He soon issued his own coinage:

From internal affairs Norton proceeded to monetary issues of the States, printed banknotes with his portrait, and even collected taxed. The amazing thing was that the residents of San Francisco loved him dearly, and were willing to pay. When he toured the streets, in a fancy military jacket, with a shiny sword and peacock feathers hat, they used to salute him.

 America's Last Emperor: The Crazy Story of Joshua Norton - Museum of the Jewish People (

 It is said that 10,000 people lined up for his funeral. San Francisco has always been home to a quite a lot of interesting people!!!

 But, Jews took major part in building the institutions of this country:

 The first American Zionist , long before Herzl, father of Ararat:

 Mordecai Manuel Noah, journalist, playwright, politician, lawyer, court of appeals judge, New York Port surveyor, a major in the New York military and, foremost, an ardent utopian Zionist.

  Sheriff of New York City, fought Tammany Hall, editor of numerous newspapers, he was the chief spokesperson of the Jews, in press and speech, to the American public.

 Mordecai was the first-born son of Manuel Noah, an immigrant from Mannheim, Germany, who had served in the Revolutionary War, and Zipporah Phillips, daughter of Jonas Phillips and Rebecca Machado, whose father had served as hazzan of the Shearith Israel Congregation of New York… Noah stressed his Sefardi identity, for it gave him deeper roots in America and a more aristocratic status in the Jewish community. 

Four Founders - Emma Lazarus [Judaic Treasures] (

 Consul to Tunis, appointed, but soon removed by Secretary of State Monroe:

At the time of your appointment, as Consul to Tunis, it was not known that the religion which you profess would form an obstacle to the exercise of your Consular functions.

He did not take it lying down, but argued back: . This may hereafter produce the most injurious effects establishing a principle, which will go to annihilate the most sacred rights of the citizen.

He and Monroe would eventually be reconciled.


His most memorable act was to call for a Jewish homeland. He saw the opportunity to bring new immigrants to the young America, while also creating  a Jewish safe-haven.:

He purchased land on Grand Island ( just below the Niagra Falls), where he would establish a Jewish colony: Ararat ( the mountain in which the original Noah’s ark landed safely).

Here is the inauguration of Ararat

On September 15th, 1825, Ararat’s inauguration was held at a church in the nearby city of Buffalo; there were not enough boats to transport the crowds of people to the island for the ceremony. Noah led a jubilant procession, resplendent with prayers in Hebrew, loud music, singing, military troops, officers, clergymen, and fellow citizens. According to a New York City newspaper reporting on the event, Noah was “in black, wearing the judicial robes of crimson silk, trimmed with ermine and a richly embossed gold medal suspended from the neck” which historian Jonathan D. Sarna explains was lent by the local Park Theater.

Hundreds of people gathered to listen, including the Seneca Chief Red Jacket who arrived by boat (Noah believed that the Native Americans were one of the Lost Tribes).

In his speech, Noah proclaimed himself as the “Judge of Israel,” established Ararat as a City of Refuge, and claimed that every Jew in the world must be taxed “three shekels of silver” in order to sustain Ararat. He also decreed that every four years the Paris Jewish consistory was to elect a Judge of Israel (after Noah served his term, of course). Mordecai Manuel Noah and the Jewish Colony Near Niagara Falls -


The cornerstone for Ararat, now in the Buffalo History Museum Artifact Spotlight: The Ararat Stone - The Buffalo History Museum

His plan failed to catch fire with Jews in America, and in Europe, as in the Austro Hungarian empire, his announcement was kept hidden from publication. He soon turned to supporting colonies in the land of the Ottoman Empire that Europeans called Palestine.

 No story of the contribution of early American Jews would be complete without Uriah Phillips Levy,1792-1862.

 United States’ First Flag officer, and  then, highest ranking naval officer of his day.

 During his service in the U.S. Navy, Levy faced considerable antisemitism.[3] He reacted to slights and was court-martialed six times, and once demoted from the rank of Captain.[3] Twice, he was dismissed from the Navy, but reinstated. He defended his conduct in his handling of naval affairs before a Court of Inquiry and in 1855 was restored to his former position.

Later,[specify] Levy commanded the Mediterranean Squadron. As a squadron commander he was given the title of commodore, then the highest position in the U.S. Navy.

Levy was instrumental in abolishing flogging in the U.S. Navy, although his position was considered controversial at the time. He also helped gain the support of the U.S Congress in passing an anti-flogging bill in 1850.[6]

( Wikipedia)

 What was controversial about abolishing flogging?


Instead of flogging as a means of punishment, Levy used public humiliation to control unruly crewmen. The Navy favored the use of corporal punishment as a means of discipline and was determined to punish Levy for his failure to adhere to standard procedures.

In 1842, the naval court unanimously ruled that Levy be dismissed for his “cruel and scandalous” methods of punishment. However, when the verdict was forwarded to President John Tyler for review, the President lessened the sentence to one year’s suspension and personally criticized the court for the “extent of punishment” towards Levy. Uriah P. Levy - Friends of the Jewish Chapel (

 He made the US Navy the first in the world to abolish corporal punishment!


He restored Monticello as a national site.


  … one of the great characters in American Jewish history. He was pugnacious, determined, eccentric, confirmed in the righteousness of his causes, an able businessman who was quite wealthy, and an admirer of Thomas Jefferson. His admiration rested on Mr. Jefferson's well-deserved reputation as a champion of religious liberty — not toleration, but liberty.

 Uriah Phillips Levy | Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

 We need add, in passing-Levi Strauss- the father of the Jeans!



Judah P Benjamin- the first Jew elected to be a Senator without renouncing Judaism-a great honor==

A noted barrister who defended escaped slaves on their right against lawsuit by the ship owner that had brought them to the Americas—

and-on the other-the only Jew to hold cabinet rank- but on the wrong side of the Union—the Confederacy—Attorney General, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of State.

PS- It has been well researched that the use of the slave “ Mammy” in raising the children of the plantation heads directly led to the inability of these same elites to run a  country. JP Benjamin had, it seems, no competition for the job!


These early Jews were for the most part, what author Stephen Birmingham titled: The Grandees: America’s Sephardic Elite. That paved the way for the German “ Yekes” who would shape America’s retail and financial system, and then Emma Lazarus “ wretched refuse”, the East European Jews, who would come to dominate America’s literature, media, and communications, and play power politics far above their weight in numbers.

 Eventually, this new country would soon discover a hitherto unknown secret:

 Mark Twain ( The American Sholom Aleichem)


On the Jews

"If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race.  It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way.  Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of.  He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.  He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it.  The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmaties, of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind.  All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains.  What is the secret of his immortality? "

- September 1897 (Quoted inThe National Jewish Post & Observer, June 6, 1984)


Next- The Wave of German Jews who bring with them new ideas about Judaism and take part in shaping the economy of the new world power.