It’s that time of the year again: the day when the world turns shades of red, white and blue, and the smell of hot dogs — kosher ones, of course — fills the air. For Jews, the Fourth of July symbolizes the trials and tribulations of the many immigrants who fought (in some cases literally) to make this country their own.
So as you turn the heat up on your grill, trot out the watermelon or glance up at the fireworks this Independence Day, here are a few Jewish things to think about:
Francis Salvador (1747- August 1, 1776)
The first Jew to die in the American Revolutionary War was born in London to a prominent Ladino-speaking Sephardic family. Leaving his wife and children behind, Salvador arrived in Charleston, South Carolina in 1773, where he quickly got involved in the American cause, and befriended Southern revolutionary leaders like John Rutledge, William Henry Drayton, Henry Laurens and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. A year later, Salvador became the first Jew elected to the South Carolina General Assembly, despite restrictions on Jews holding public office or even casting a vote.
Salvador was killed on August 1, 1776, during a skirmish on the South Carolina frontier border. Shot by the British, he reportedly fell into some bushes, was discovered by a Native American tribe and scalped.
George Washington’s letter
In 1790, newly elected President George Washington wrote a 340-word letter to the congregants of Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island — now considered the oldest standing synagogue in the United States. In this missive, Washington promised Jews equal rights and freedom from oppression for their religious beliefs:
“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
America’s red,white and blue hero may not be Jewish — nor is Chris Evans, who plays the buff movie version — but Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, who created the comic, most definitely were.
Brought to life in the 1940s, the first edition of the classic shows its protagonist punching Hitler in the jaw. Throughout the war, Captain America fought alongside the Allies, battling the Axis with his signature stars ‘n’ stripes shield.
On July 4, 1976, while the U.S. was celebrating its bicentennial with great pomp and circumstance, 100 Israeli commandos were landing at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Their objective? To rescue passengers of Air France Flight 139, hijacked by two members of the Palestinian Liberation Front.
In an operation that lasted just 90 minutes, 102 hostages were rescued, leaving both hijackers, 45 Ugandan soldiers and three hostages dead. Five of the commandos were wounded and Lt. Col. Yonah Netanyahu, brother of current Prime-Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lost his life.