Alexander Hamilton’s (Somewhat) Jewish Roots

Despite speculation to the contrary, there is no solid evidence that Alexander Hamilton was of Jewish ancestry on his mother’s side. But his stepfather seems to have been a Jew, and throughout his life her son maintained a deeply felt respect for Jews, as Gabriela Geselowitz writes:

Around the time of Hamilton’s birth in Nevis in the West Indies, the Caribbean had a sizable Sephardic community. Charlestown, the capital of Nevis, had a particularly large Jewish population. [It] is certain that Hamilton was a Jewish day-school boy. His mother never divorced her first husband (a probably Jewish man with the surname Lavien), so the Anglican Church saw Hamilton as illegitimate, banning him from its local school. Instead, he studied at a Jewish school (possibly being solo tutored by the headmistress) run out of a synagogue in Charlestown. It was there that he learned Hebrew, and he reportedly recalled to his son years later learning to recite the Ten Commandments [in that language].

“Progress of the Jews,” Hamilton once wrote, “from their earliest history to the present time has been and is entirely out of the ordinary course of human affairs. Is it not then a fair conclusion that the cause also is an extraordinary one—in other words, that it is the effect of some great providential plan?’” And in a court case, he argued, “Why distrust the evidence of the Jews? Discredit them, and you destroy the Christian religion.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Alexander Hamilton, American Jewish History, History & Ideas, Philo-Semitism, Sephardim, West Indies

 

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria