Revolutionary Jews

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For many, the Fourth of July evokes barbecues, fireworks and swimming pools. But historic Jewish figures of the Revolution? Let the JT enlighten you!

There were nearly 2,000 Jews in the United States during the Revolutionary War. Jews served both on the battlefield and behind the scenes as financiers, suppliers, and privateers. Nearly 100 men fought in the war, primarily on the side of independence; around 15 of these men served in military leadership (Source: ACJ)

Frances Salvador

Salvador was the first openly Jewish person to hold a high elective office when he was elected in 1774 to the First Provincial Congress in Charleston, South Carolina. He became the first Jew to die for his country when he was killed in combat in 1776. A commemorative stone in his honor resides in Charleston, reading “First Jew In South Carolina To Hold Public Office And To Die For American Independence.” (Source: Aish)

Haym Salomon

Salomon was a major financier during the Revolutionary War. He began as a secret agent in New York City when it was overtaken by the British, and fled to Philadelphia in 1778 to escape arrest. Salomon served as paymaster general to the French forces, helped raise funds for the war and consistently loaned money to Continental Congress members, including future president James Madison. He also helped to financial the first permanent synagogue in Philadelphia. (Source: Aish)

Col. Isaac Franks

Franks was President George Washington’s right-hand man throughout the war. The two became good friends when Franks opened his Germantown, Pennsylvania, home to Washington in November 1793 so he might avoid the yellow fever epidemic. Franks was the first Jew to have his portrait painted by famed painter Gilbert Stuart. (Source: Aish)

David Salisbury Franks

A distant relative of Isaac Franks, David was an aide de camp to Benedict Arnold at the time of his betrayal. David was arrested as a consequence of Arnold’s actions and later acquitted. Angered by his arrest, Franks appealed to the court to have his name cleared. He received a promotion and 400 acres of land. In 1784, Franks became the first Jew to serve in a U.S. diplomatic position when he was appointed vice consul in Marseilles, France. (Source: Aish)

Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas

Seixas served as the hazzan in Shearith Israel in New York City, the oldest synagogue in the United States. He repeatedly led his congregation in prayers for the departure of the British. According to Jew in the City, one congregant stated it was better to “die in the cause of liberty than to live and submit to the impositions of an arrogant government.” Seixas convinced his congregation to leave New York City for Philadelphia to remain safe. He kept the synagogue Torah scrolls safe with him in Connecticut. Many of his congregants enlisted in the Colonial Army after coming to Philadelphia. (Source: Jew in the City)

Jacob Mordecai

Mordecai served as a clerk to David Franks, his fellow Jew in the Continental Army, for which he was also a rifleman. When Mordecai married, he and his wife came to North Carolina and were the the only Jews for miles around. Despite this, they continued to keep kosher and observe Shabbat. Mordecai often published biblical research. (Source: Jew in the City)

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