Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

The Thomas Jefferson statue removed from New York City Council chambers was a gift from a Jewish military officer

(JTA) — The statue of Thomas Jefferson that will be removed from the chambers of the New York City Council at the urging of Black lawmakers was a gift in 1834 from one of the first Jewish officers in the U.S. military.

The city’s Public Design Commission decided to remove the statue following complaints from Assemblymen Charles Barron, Councilwoman Inez Barron and others that Jefferson was a slaveholder.

The statue, which has stood in the city council’s chambers for over a century, was commissioned by Uriah Phillips Levy, a lifelong fan of Jefferson’s. Levy was a member of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue in New York City.

Levy served in the U.S. Navy, including during the War of 1812, eventually earning the rank of commodore. Having faced antisemitic prejudice in the Navy, Levy fought against religious discrimination and commissioned a bronze sculpture of Jefferson that stands in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, in honor of Jefferson’s support for religious freedom. The New York version is a copy. Levy even purchased Monticello, Jefferson’s mansion in Virginia, in 1836 and restored it.

It is not yet clear where the statue will end up after it is removed from the city council chambers. Possible new locations include another place within City Hall or at the New-York Historical Society, where it can be displayed with historical context.

In the same week that the decision was made to remove the Jefferson statue, a statue of a Jewish woman was put up in New York City. A life-size bronze of Diane Arbus, a photographer who was born on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 1923, was erected in Central Park, where she took some of her most famous photos. The statue, only the second sculpture in the park to honor a real-life woman, will be on display until August 2022.

— The post The Thomas Jefferson statue removed from New York City Council chambers was a gift from a Jewish military officer appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.