The Jewish Experience in the American Revolution (Andrew Porwancher, October 14, 2023, Real Clear Politics)
The fractious debate about Jewish rights playing out in numerous states formed the backdrop of the Constitutional Convention. Notably, the only American who appealed to the Convention to protect religious liberty was a Jew – Jonas Phillips – who had served in the Revolution. He lamented to the delegates that Jewish-Americans “have bravely fought and bled for liberty which they cannot enjoy.” What Phillips did not yet know was that the delegates had already taken an extraordinary step that most states would not: they included a constitutional clause banning religious tests for federal office. A Jew may not have been free to serve in the Pennsylvania state assembly, but that self-same Jew could be president of the United States. It was an extraordinary triumph punctuating the tragic history of the Jewish people.
The question of Jewish belonging in America has periodically resurfaced throughout the nation’s history. In each of those moments, voices have arisen to erroneously claim that Jews are newcomers who somehow threaten the original character of the country. Those today who would doubt that Jews have a rightful stake in this republic would do well to remember that the trees rooted in the Revolution’s battlefields draw their nutrients from soil tinged with Jewish blood.