Monday, December 5, 2016 Kislev 5, 5777




Uriah Levy statue

Bryan Schwartzman

Who is that man and what did he do?

That’s what Gary "Yuri" Tabach, a recently retired U.S. Navy captain living in Moscow, hoped generations of Philadelphians would ask when he decided to commission a 1,000-plus-pound bronze statue and have it mounted on a pedestal outside Congregation Mikveh Israel on Independence Mall.

In December, 2011, hundreds of people attended the dedication of the likeness of Uriah P. Levy. 

Levy, born in Philadelphia in 1792, was the first Jewish American to ever to rise to the rank of commodore — the equivalent of today’s rank of admiral — in the United States Navy. He abolished the Navy’s practice of flogging sailors as a form of punishment. He also faced some hard-core anti-Semitism, was once kicked out of the Navy on the baseless grounds of inefficiency, and even killed another officer in a duel following an anti-Semitic insult. And he had a serious man crush on America’s third President, Thomas Jefferson, whom Levy credited with establishing religious liberty in the United States and opening the door of opportunity to non-Christian Americans.

In 1936, a decade after Jefferson’s death, Levy — who on the side made a killing in the real estate market — purchased the president’s former home in Charlottesville, Va. though it was in a state of disprair. Considered one of the earliest preservationists, he helped restore Monticello to its glory days.

Today, historians credit Uriah’s nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy for ensuring that Jefferson’s vision was preserved for future generations of Americans.

Check out the statue next time you're wandering through Independence Mall.

Uriah P. Levy Statue

Where: Just outside Congregation Mikveh Israel, 44 North 4th Street  Philadelphia, PA 19106
Cost: Free
More info: Read background on Levy from the Jewish Virtual Library, 

See a video clip from the statue dedication here


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