July 4th: America’s 245th birthday, and what it meant for US Jews – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 5, 2021

July 4 marks the 245th anniversary of the passing of the Declaration of Independence, a watershed moment in US history that marked the 13 Colonies' path toward independence, celebrated annually as US Independence Day.

The Declaration of Independence was not signed by the entire Continental Congress that day in 1776 in Philadelphia, despite popular belief. In fact, the official signed document was only ordered two weeks later on July 19 and was mostly signed another two weeks after that on August 2.

Concentrated mainly in a few large communities such as New York, Philadelphia, Savannah, Charleston and Newport, the presence of Jews in the colonies during the Revolution and their role in the War of Independence have been well documented.

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One notable story was that of Haym Salomon, a wealthy Jew who, at the end of the Revolution, essentially financed the rest of the war.

Another notable figure was Col. Mordecai Sheftall, a prominent member of the Savannah Jewish community and the highest-ranking Jewish officer in the Continental Army.

In one instance, Sheftall and his son were captured by the British alongside patriot Rev. Moses Allen, the latter having been singled out for preaching freedom to his congregation, while Sheftall was singled out for his Jewish faith, according to the Raab Collection, who found and auctioned off newly discovered diary pages from Allen recounting the incident and adding a Jewish dimension to the conflict.

Religious freedom was a significant force in the colonies, which were far more open and tolerant to different faiths compared to Europe. As such, the rights and freedoms Jews held in 13 Colonies were far greater than they would have been anywhere else, being considered citizens and landowners who could hold office and positions of authority without legal reproach.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants," he wrote, "while every one [sic] shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

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July 4th: America's 245th birthday, and what it meant for US Jews - The Jerusalem Post

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