web analytics
March 3, 2015 / 12 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Jonas Phillips: Patriotic Colonial Jewish Businessman

(All quotes are fromPortraits Etched in Stone: Early Jewish Settlers, 1682 – 1831” by David de Sola Pool, Columbia University Press, New York, 1952.)

 

Last month we sketched the life of the Orthodox Jewish businessman Jonas Phillips who came to America in 1756. Jonas and his family first resided in New York and then moved to Philadelphia in either 1772 or 1773.

Pillar of Congregation Mikve Israel

“While in Philadelphia, Phillips was active in the affairs of its Jewish community. The Revolution brought there a large access of numbers from New York and elsewhere, and he was one of the committee which in March, 1782, was charged with purchasing the ground for a new and larger synagogue. With his payment…he was far and away the largest contributor towards the cost of the new synagogue building, with the exception of Haym Salomon…. One of the cornerstones of the new building was laid by him and one by Isaac Moses in September of that year. At the following meeting of the congregation he was elected its president. He had the honor of serving as president when the synagogue was consecrated, and on that occasion he presented to the congregation a scroll of the Torah and ‘made his Sephar Holy.’

“He had been one of those who had signed the memorial sent to the president, vice-president, and council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania asking for their approval of the opening of the synagogue, and it was he who wrote to General George Washington the letter inviting him to attend the dedication ceremonies.

“He was one of the most if not the most active of the members of that reorganized Philadelphia congregation. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah he would chant the haftarah, the prophetic reading, and on the second day the early morning Psalms, zemiroth. On the Day of Atonement it was he of the name of Jonas who would read the Book of Jonah, the reading from the prophets on the afternoon of that day, and on Hoshaana Rabbah he would read the Selihoth, the most important part of the service. His offerings to the congregation remained outstandingly generous…. The next year, however, they dropped…a reduction perhaps indicating not an impairment of his prosperity but a falling out with the synagogue authorities.”

Letter Asking Guarantee of Religious Freedom

In 1787 Jonas wrote a letter to Congress asking that the federal Constitution guarantee religious liberty in the state of Pennsylvania. He did not know that three weeks earlier it had been agreed upon that no religious test should ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. The following are excerpts from that letter (with Phillips’s original spelling):

 

I…being one of the people called Jews of the City of Philadelphia, a people scattered & dispersed among all nations do behold with Concern that among the laws in the Constitution of Pennsylvania, there is a Clause [that reads] I do believe in one God the Creatur and governor of the universe and Rewarder of the good & the punisher of the wicked – and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the old & New testament to be given by divine inspiration…. [T]o swear & believe that the new testiment was given by divine inspiration is absolutely against the Religious principle of a Jew, and is against his Conscience to take any such oath – By the above law a Jew is deprived of holding any publick office or place of Government which is a Contridictory to the bill of Right Sect 2….That all men have a natural & unalienable Right to worship almighty God according to the dictates of their own Conscience and understanding & that no man ought or of Right can be Compelled to attend any Religious Worship or Creed or support any place of worship or Maintain any minister contrary to or against his own free will and Consent, nor can any man who acknowledges the being of a God be Justly deprived or abridged of any Civil Right as a Citizen on account of his Religious sentiments or peculiar mode of Religious Worship….

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Jonas Phillips: Patriotic Colonial Jewish Businessman”

  1. Can I pretend we’re related without being sure?? Shemaya Shilo Phillips ;-)

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the US Congress on March 3, 2015.
‘Alliance Between Israel & US Must Always Remain Above Politics’
Latest Sections Stories
Yarden Merlot

Bottles of wine accompany the Pesach storytelling – each glass of wine represents the four expressions used by G-d in describing the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt.

Schonfeld-logo1

There is a point that many parenting books miss: children do more for us than we do for them.

Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte was a nine-year-old girl when Islamic militants launched an assault on a Lebanese military base and destroyed her home.

The husband needs to make some changes!

Purim is a fantastic time for fantasies, so I hope you won’t mind my fantasizing about how easy life would be if kids would prefer healthy cuisine over sweets. Imagine waking up to the call of “Mommy, when will my oatmeal be ready?”… As you rush to ladle out the hot unsweetened cereal, you rub […]

‘Double Gold’ awarded to 2012 Yarden Heights wine & 2011 Yarden Merlot Kela Single Vineyard.

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

The mishloach manos of times gone by were sometimes simple and sometimes elaborate, but the main focus was on the preparation of the delicious food they contained.

One of the earliest special Purims we have on record was celebrated by the Jews of Granada and Shmuel HaNagid, the eleventh-century rav, poet, soldier and statesman, and one of the most influential Jews in Muslim Spain.

Jews, wake up! Stop educating the world and start educating yourselves.

The lessons conform to the sensitivities and needs of the Orthodox community…

The program took on special significance as it marked not only the first anniversary of Rebbetzin Kudan’s levayah but also the 27th yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, a”h.

It was only in the reign of George III (1760-1820) that Jews became socially acceptable in Britain, and Nathan became music master to Princess Charlotte and musical librarian to King George IV.

It captures the love of the Jewish soul as only Shlomo Hamelech could portray it – and as only Rabbi Miller could explain it.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Dr. Yitzchok Levine

I happen to believe that for a couple to spend a few years in kollel is a wonderful way to start a marriage.

Glimpses-logo-NEW

Penn wrote the following to a friend in England: “I found them [the Indians of the eastern shore of North America] with like countenances with the Hebrew race; and their children of so lively a resemblance to them that a man would think himself in Duke’s place, or Barry street, in London, when he sees them.”

The special charm of these letters is their immediacy and authenticity of emotion and description.

There were many who believed that some North America Indians were descended from Jews.

One might think to attribute the crudeness of the calendar to the fact that it was produced by a frontier community unable to calculate a more precise table.

“Throughout his life, he observed Tisha B’Ab as the Nahalah (anniversary) for all of his relatives who were murdered, as this is the national Jewish day of mourning.

Practically to his last days the patriarchal founder was at his office almost daily and took an active interest in all matters connected with the business.

In 1787 Jonas wrote a letter to Congress asking that the federal Constitution guarantee religious liberty in the state of Pennsylvania.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/jonas-phillips-patriotic-colonial-jewish-businessman/2014/09/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: