Ask The Rabbi

In G-d We Trust (All Others Pay Cash)

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: American Revolutionary War, Jewish Support

Steve Weiss from Chicago wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Do you know if there is any truth to the following article that I read? I am somewhat skeptical, but wonder if you have any knowledge of this: "A couple of years ago, at West Point, there was a display about Hyam Salomon and the Revolutionary War. He died penniless, having used all his resources to aid the newly formed and poorly supplied American "army." The following story is told about him:

General Washington's financial advisor and assistant was a Jewish man by the name of Hyam Salomon. During the cold winter of Valley Forge when American soldiers were freezing and running out of food, it was Hyam who marshaled Jews in America and Europe to provide money in relief aid to these stranded American troops and turned the course of history. Without this help, our "army" would have perished before they could have defeated the British. If you take a one dollar bill out of your pocket and look at the back at the Eagle, the stars above the Eagle's head are in the six point Star of David to honor Jews. If you turn the Eagle upside down you will see a configuration in the likeness of a Menorah...both at the insistence of George Washington who said we should never forget the Jewish people."


Dear Steve Weiss,

The small Jewish community in colonial America gave more than their share toward the United States' revolutionary cause. One such patriot was indeed Hyam Salomon, who gave $300,000, an immense fortune for those days.

But I doubt that the "Great Seal of the United States" which appears on the dollar bill makes any hint to Salomon's contribution, or that George Washington had anything to say about it.

The first bill to bear this symbol was the $1 Silver Certificate, Series 1935, long after Washington's death.

The "Great Seal" itself was commissioned by Congress in 1776 and adopted six years later, but during this time George Washington was busy fighting the war. The designing committee, which included Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, did not include Washington. Nor did Washington become president until seven years after this seal had been adopted, so it's questionable that he would have had any input.

The thirteen stars, representing the 13 original states, do indeed form the Star of David (also known as "Solomon's seal"). Exactly why, I don't know. In general, though, it's clear that Franklin and Jefferson had "biblical" motif in mind, as their original draft of the Great Seal showed "rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Cloud, expressive of the divine Presence and Command, beaming on Moses."

But don't worry. Hyam Salomon wasn't forgotten. In 1893, a bill was presented before the 52nd Congress ordering a gold medal struck off in recognition of Salomon's contributions to the United States.


 
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