The Jews Who Saved Thomas Jefferson's Home at Monticello

(Wall Street Journal) Meir Soloveichik - Thomas Jefferson was buried at Monticello, his estate in Charlottesville, Va., on July 4, 1826. Close to his home lies a grave belonging to Rachel Phillips Levy. According to the inscription, she died on the 7 of Iyar, 5591, following a calendar used by traditional Jews. How did a Jewish grave end up in Monticello? Uriah Phillips Levy devoted most of his life to the American Navy, in which he served with distinction and led an ultimately successful campaign against flogging. Though he faced anti-Semitism and assaults on his reputation throughout his career, Uriah's legacy is honored today: The Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy in Annapolis bears his name. Uriah's hero was Thomas Jefferson. In 1834 Uriah purchased Monticello, which had fallen into ruin, and devoted himself to its rehabilitation, restoring the house and purchasing land that had once been part of the estate. Uriah also made Monticello the permanent home of his mother, Rachel. When she died in 1839 (5591), Uriah buried her on the property. The writer is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan and director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought of Yeshiva University.

2017-04-28 00:00:00

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