The Jewish Naval Hero Who Donated New York’s Banished Thomas Jefferson Statue

Oct. 26 2021

Last week, a statue of Thomas Jefferson was removed from the council chamber in New York’s city hall, where it has stood since 1915. The statue is a painted plaster model used by the French sculptor Pierre-Jean David d’Angers when he created an identical bronze likeness, which now sits in the Capitol rotunda. In 1833, Uriah P. Levy commissioned the sculpture, and the next year brought both it and the model to the U.S. Jonathan Sarna tells the story of this Jewish naval veteran, who intended the statute “to serve as a symbol of religious liberty.”

Jefferson, for all of his blindness concerning the evils of slavery, championed religious liberty in Virginia and in the nation as a whole. . . . And he specifically championed the rights of Jews. He expressed pride that the University of Virginia, whose founding he considered one of his supreme achievements, both accepted Jews and “set the example of ceasing to violate the rights of conscience by any injunctions on the different sects respecting their religion.” . . . Mr. Levy, like many Jews, honored him for that.

Born in 1792 into one of America’s leading Jewish families, Levy ran away from home as a boy of ten; a decade later he entered the U.S. Navy, hoping to serve in the War of 1812. He briefly fell into British hands. When freed, he was awarded an independent naval command. His unorthodox path to power was resented by his fellow officers. They thought that a naval commander should be better bred.

They also resented him for being a Jew. Indeed his faith cost him, again and again. In 1816 one such dispute with a fellow officer escalated from epithets to fisticuffs and then, finally a duel. Only Mr. Levy walked away. Over the next 30 years, Mr. Levy would be court martialed six times, each for responding to anti-Semitic slights.

Statues can convey multiple messages, as can historical memory. Rather than choosing between the memory of racial injustice and the embrace of religious liberty, let the d’Angers statue serve as a reminder that Jefferson embodied both at once—as did Mr. Levy. Pondering the many complexities and contradictions inherent in their lives may offer valuable lessons concerning our own.

Read more at New York Times

More about: American Jewish History, Freedom of Religion, Jews in the military, Thomas Jefferson

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy