Jonas Phillips: Introduction (04:59)
Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik will lecture on the man whom he considers to be the first truly American Jew who was a friend of George Washington, Benjamin Rush, and other founding fathers. Phillips' Jewish experience in America, claims Rabbi Soloveichik, highlights the uniqueness of the American conception of religious liberty.
The Life of Jonas Phillips (07:31)
Phillis immigrated to the United States as an indentured servant, but worked tirelessly and eventually became one of the most affluent Jewish men on the continent. Rabbi Soloveichik considers Phillips to be the first person to fight for religious liberty in America.
A Declaration From the Entire State (11:03)
Rabbi Soloveichik reads through a letter sent from Phillips to Gumple Samson in Holland containing a business proposition as well as a copy of the Declaration of Independence; the letter was intercepted by British sailors. Additionally, hear a reading of Abigail Addams reaction to hearing the Declaration of Independence originally read.
Jonas Phillips and the American Tradition of Religious Freedom (06:48)
Phillips wrote a letter to George Washington for the Constitutional Convention angered by a Pennsylvania law that required all intending to serve on the legislator to affirm both the Old and New Testaments to be divinely inspired. Phillips rightly considered this law to be an affront to his religious liberty as a follower of Judaism.
Strangers and Neighbors (08:08)
Rabbi Soloveichik explains America provided the first true opportunity for Jewish people to practice their faith publicly, as well as making it relevant in legislation; the Rabbi claims he wants followers of Judaism to be separate in faith but part of society. The first Jew to hold federal office was Mordecai Manuel Noah, a grandchild of Phillips.
A Date in Court: Shabbat and the Birth of Religious Freedom Case Law (10:52)
When Phillips was called to testify in court on a Saturday, the day of the Jewish Sabbath, he refused in order to ensure Jewish people had the right to honor their Sabbath just as the Christians. This was the first religious liberty case within the United States, according to Rabbi Soloveichik.
The Phillips Legacy (03:18)
The Phillips family continued to be a prominent Jewish family in America after the death of Jonas in 1803; Rabbi Soloveichik considers Phillips to be the first American Jew because he was able to ensure religious freedom and gave a new expression to the Declaration of Independence.
Credits: Jonas Phillips (00:13)
Credits: Jonas Phillips
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