The Jews Who Fought for America’s Freedom—and What They Won

Yesterday, Americans gathered with friends and family to celebrate their nation’s independence. Paul Finkelman and Lance Sussman took the occasion to delve into the role of Jews in the Revolutionary War, and the unprecedented opportunities the new country offered them:

As they did nowhere in Europe, Jews served as officers in the patriot armies. Mordecai Sheftall, a Savannah businessman, was a full colonel, then the third-highest rank in the American army. David Salisbury Franks rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, served as a diplomat to France and Morocco during the war, and later became the assistant cashier of the Bank of the United States. Solomon Bush, whose father had signed a non-importation agreement, ended the war as a lieutenant colonel and the deputy adjutant-general of the Pennsylvania militia. His younger brother, Captain Lewis Bush, died in combat. There were no Jewish officers in the British army or among the Hessian mercenaries during the Revolutionary War. (However, Alexander Zuntz, a Hessian civilian commissary, served as the ḥazzan of Shearith Israel congregation while the British occupied New York City. Impressed with American religious liberty, he stayed in New York after the war, and eventually became president of the synagogue.)

In 1787, Congress, operating under the Articles of Confederation, passed the Northwest Ordinance, the forerunner of subsequent laws regulating the settlement of western territories and the creation of new states. The Ordinance provided for “extending the fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty” in the national territories. Written before the Constitution, this was the first national guarantee of religious freedom. The Confederation Congress, which included no Jews and only the occasional Catholic, could have easily established some kind of non-denominational Protestantism or Christianity. But it did no such thing.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American founding, American Jewish History, American Revolutionary War, Freedom of Religion

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security