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.

Read more at University of Virginia

More about: American Jewish History, Racism, Thomas Jefferson

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations