Today’s Palestinians have become targets in Gaza of a powerful Israeli state. Yet Jews historically suffered similar oppression and reacted as desperately.
On this date (July 28) the following notable events occurred:
1764: Birthdate of Solomon Etting, the Baltimore businessman and politician who led the successful fight to end Maryland’s laws that banned non-Christians from holding public office and practicing law.
1776: Jonas Phillips “sent a letter to a relative and business correspondent of his in Holland, Gumpel Samson by way of the Dutch Island of St. Eustatius. The letter begins by discussing his last letter and other business matters. He moves on to discuss the conflict with England and laconically mentions that the Americans have 100,000 soldiers to the British 25,000. He finishes the letter with an appendix of items he want sent to America so he may sell them. There are two important things about this letter. First, Jonas enclosed within the letter a newly-minted copy of the Declaration of Independence. And secondly, Jonas wrote the letter in Yiddish. Since at war with Britain Jonas would have expected the letter to be intercepted, but by writing in Yiddish they would not be able to read it. The British did intercept the letter and not knowing in language it was written concluded it was in code.” Phillips was born in Germany in 1736 and came to America in 1756. After working as an indentured servant in Charleston SC, he moved North, eventually settling in New York City where he became a successful merchant who was active in the Jewish community of both NYC and Philadelphia and supporter of the American Revolution. He was the grandfather of Uriah Phillips Levy, the first Jewish Commodore in the United States Navy.
1789(5th of Av, 5549): Meir ben Saul Barby the scholar who escaped poverty and served as rabbi at congregations at Halberstadt and Halle-on-the-Salle.
1794: French political leader and revolutionary, Maximilien Robespierre meets his fate with the guillotine. Whatever his other shortcomings, Robespierre took the unpopular stance of advocating full rights for the Jews of France when the subject first was debated in 1789. In part he stated, “How can you blame the Jews for the persecution they have suffered in certain countries? These are, on the contrary, national crimes that we must expiate by restoring to them the imprescribable rights of man of which no human authority can deprive them…Let us give them back their happiness, their country and their virtue by restoring them their dignity as men and citizens…The vices of the Jews are born of the abasement in which you [Christians] have plunged them. Raise their condition and they will speedily rise to it!”
Ironically, the same can be said of today’s homeless, poor, dispossessed, and disenfranchised–the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. We now witness the truth of that prophecy.