May, the 5th month of the year has arrived! Spring (Vernal Equinox) officially arrived on March 20th, 2023 at 5:24 PM yet many consider May 1st the start of the Spring Season! May 1st begins A.A.P.I Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, and Jewish American Heritage month! And one of the most important dates in May is “Mother’s Day” on May 14th, 2023. On May the 11th, 2000 Congregation Zion’s Sake hosted its first Shabbat Service! This month is our 23rd anniversary as a Congregation!
Jewish American Heritage Month is a month-long celebration to honor the accomplishments and contributions of Jewish Americans since their arrival in the 17th century. This is also a time to examine the life of Jews in America — the difficulties, antisemitism, and discrimination we have faced over the years.
Since the COVID 19 outbreak in early 2020, conspiracy theories of the past have resurfaced in American culture and lead to proclamations like “Jews control the banks,” “Jews are responsible for all wars,” and “There is a secret cabal” of Jews. “Jews are responsible for the COVID Pandemic”. “There is a Zionist Plot to overtake the world”. Of course, there is no merit to any of these claims, but as Jews in America these Anti-Semitic sentiments are always present! One never knows when we will encounter someone who holds these racists, bigoted thoughts. These are not just far-away concepts for Jews in America, as Jews, such as myself, we have all felt the radical shift to toxic divisions and hatred in America over the past few years and fear for the future.
Jewish American Heritage Month is a time to face this harsh reality and take a biblical stand to fight against it! The reality for many Jews in America is they have, at times, viewed the United States as an escape from persecution, a nation of opportunity and safety. In fact, we have an American Jew who played a critical role in our bid for freedom! In the mid-1700’s, the British Monarchy was seeking to gain greater control over American trade. Simultaneously, there was talk of putting all religious affairs of colonial America under the jurisdiction of the Church of England. Jews in America saw both their commerce and freedom of worship threatened by these developments. I wish to share such an example:
Haym Salomon was a personal friend of George Washington. Salomon called on him with a proposal for an American revolution against the mighty British Empire. Salomon had a revolutionary idea borrowed from the Talmud: “One nation united under one God with freedom and liberty for every citizen,” and a concept of democracy in which the republic would be the servant rather than the master of the people. As a demonstration of his sincerity, Salomon offered his fortune of 600,000 pounds sterling to begin the American Revolution. This would be several million dollars in modern US currency, an immense fortune at the time.
Haym Salomon was born into a Jewish family in Lissa, Poland, in 1740. He took part in the struggle for Polish independence, then came to New York City in 1772. Because of his importance to the American Revolution, he was arrested by the British in 1776, and again in 1778. He was sentenced to die, but escaped by bribing his jailer.
Several years ago, the United States Postal Service paid homage to him by issuing a commemorative stamp to “Haym Salomon, businessman and broker, who was responsible for raising most of the money needed to finance the American Revolution and later save the nation from collapse.” This nice testimony to Haym was written on the reverse side of the stamp. The front of the stamp had a drawing of Haym and the inscription, “Haym Salomon, Financial Hero.”
To ensure the success of the American Revolution, Salomon traveled to France and raised the equivalent of an additional 3.5 million British pounds sterling to finance the cause. Salomon had a working knowledge of eight languages, which aided him a great deal in his expeditions back to Europe. When in France, Salomon met with the French government, which was eager to embarrass the British. He obtained orders from the French government for LaFayette to tender the French arsenal to George Washington’s army.
Salomon also solicited every able-bodied Jewish man to fight in Washington’s army. After the war, he organized the first American veterans’ organization, “The Jewish War Veterans,” which is still active today. The British hired German mercenaries to fight against the Americans. Salomon realized that the motivation of these Germans was money, so he offered them more money than what the British paid, and won many of these German mercenaries over to the American side.
Meanwhile, some French soldiers volunteered to fight on the American side. They were captured by the British. Since Salomon spoke French fluently, he passed himself off as a French diplomat, and freed these French men.
In addition to Salomon’s financial and organizational contributions to the American Revolution, he also made literary and philosophical contributions to the Revolution. The first draft of the United States Constitution was written by Salomon. His statement of “one nation under one God” was too monotheistic for Trinitarians, so it was modified to “one nation under God.” Salomon’s statement of “freedom and justice for all” took almost a century to be realized for African-Americans, but they nonetheless owe a debt of gratitude to Salomon for at least bringing forth the concept.
Salomon also designed “The Great Seal,” seen on the back of every American dollar bill. Although it says, “Annuit Coeptis Novus Ordo Seclorum,” (“Announcing the Birth of a New Secular Order”-Latin), the original Hebrew inscription would have been translated, “to the new order of the master confederacy of the Gentile world.”
Salomon believed that the United States would become a great and powerful nation someday. His vision for the United States proved true with the ascendancy of this country in the Twentieth Century. The pyramid on the seal could be considered a Jewish symbol. It is half of the Star of David. Also, according to the great historian Josephus, the pyramids of Egypt were built by Jewish slaves.
On the right-hand side of the dollar bill, we see the eagle, holding 13 arrows in one claw with 13 leaves in the other claw, and a ribbon in its beak with the inscription, “E Pluribus Unum” (“From many, one”). Above the head of the eagle, we see 13 stars arranged forming a Star of David. This was also designed by Haym Salomon. He felt that the United States would become the nation represented by the eagle in the prophetic vision of Daniel 7:4
At the conclusion of the war, many in the Continental Congress were desperately poor. Among those who borrowed money from Salomon, but never paid him back, were James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and even George Washington. In the latter’s case, however, Salomon didn’t want to be repaid. Instead, he requested that the American flag have the 13 stars in the form of the Star of David, which Washington promised to do. However, anti-Semites refused to allow the Star of David on the American flag, so the original flag had the 13 stars in the form of a circle.
Salomon died in 1785, completely bankrupt, leaving his wife and children penniless. However, that year, the Sons of the American Revolution erected a plaque honoring him. As we celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month let us recall Dr Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” Speech in which he spoke to the intentionality of relationship which is the key in all this. He said: “Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands”. Dr King is speaking to Racial reconciliation, Jew and Gentile reconciliation, and reconciliation of the division within the greater body of Messiah! The One New Humanity of Ephesians 2:15 speaks directly to these divisions! Yeshua died that we may ALL be one! May we remember the sacrifice of all, Jew, Gentile, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, and Indigenous People who made America one of the most blessed nations on earth!
Rabbi Eric S Carlson