Thomas Jefferson’s Jewish Descendants

Nov. 19 2020

In 1822, David Isaacs and Nancy West, of Charlottesville, Virginia, were indicted for running afoul of the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. James Loeffler tells their story:

David was a Jewish immigrant from Germany who ran the town’s general store. For his religious community, he traveled back and forth to the Beth Shalome synagogue in Richmond. Nancy was a free mixed-race woman who owned local property, ran a bakery, and launched one of the country’s first African-American newspapers. Together, they raised seven children as common-law husband and wife in the heart of downtown Charlottesville. Their lives passed without incident until the day they were hauled into court to face criminal prosecution for interracial miscegenation.

In 1827, after five years of court battles, the charges were finally dropped against the couple. Life returned to normal. The children grew up. Then [their] daughter Julia Ann married a local man named Eston Hemings. The son of Sally Hemings, he had recently been freed from slavery after the death of his father, Thomas Jefferson. Yet the story did not end there. Eston and Julia Ann later moved to the Midwest, where they assumed the surname “Jefferson,” and began to identify publicly as Jefferson’s white, Christian descendants.

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Read more at University of Virginia

More about: American Jewish History, Racism, Thomas Jefferson

 

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas