Tag Archives: American Revolution

Jew of the Week: Jonas Phillips

Revolutionary War Hero

phillipsJonas Phillips (1736-1803) was born in Germany to an observant, Yiddish-speaking family. When he was 21, Jonah set forth for the New World. He first made his way to London, anglicizing his father’s name “Phaibush” to “Phillips”. There, he sold himself into indentured servitude in order to pay for his passage to America. After working several years on an indigo plantation, Phillips earned his freedom and moved to New York to work as a merchant. He became a wealthy man and married a prominent Sephardic Jewish woman, with whom he would have 21 children. Unfortunately, Phillips lost much of his wealth because of British restrictions on commerce. Not surprisingly, Phillips became a strong supporter of the American Revolutionary War, and joined the Philadelphia Militia. He fought valiantly, and earned a reputation as an American war hero. In 1787, he took part in the Constitutional Convention that drafted the United States Constitution. He played a key role in ensuring that the Constitution would protect people’s religious freedoms, and give equal civil rights to all citizens. Meanwhile, Phillips was a founding father of one of America’s oldest synagogues, Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel. One of his grandsons became the Chief Justice of South Carolina’s Supreme Court, while another was America’s first Jewish commodore in the US Navy, and also a famous war hero. His great-grandson was a governor of South Carolina.

Words of the Week

Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis. Who are the Palestinians? Egyptian! They may be from Alexandria, from Cairo, from Dumietta, from the North, from Aswan, from Upper Egypt. We are Egyptians. We are Arabs.
— Hamas Minister Fathi Hammad on Al-Hekma TV (Egypt), March 23, 2012 (Click here to watch)

Jew of the Week: Haym Solomon

America’s Founding Father?

Haym Solomon (1740 – 1785) One of the major financiers of the American Revolution, he was born in Poland to a family of Sephardic Jews, and later immigrated to New York. (His father was the rabbi of the Sephardic community in Lezsno, Poland.) At one point imprisoned and sentenced to death by the British for being a member of the revolutionary Sons of Liberty, Solomon ultimately died in poverty for his incredible devotion to the founding of the United States. He single-handedly raised the equivalent of $100 million (in today’s value) to pay for the Americans’ final campaign against the British at Yorktown, which turned out to be the last battle of the war. Later, he lent what some estimate to be the equivalent of $40 billion to establish the United States and keep it from going bankrupt in its early years – money which he was never repaid. Many believe that the United States would not exist were it not for his efforts.

Words of the Week

It is a special kindness that God made man to walk upright, so that he looks upon the Heavens; unlike beasts that go on all fours and see only the earth.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866)