July 4 Independence Day brings to mind Jewish patriots

The grave of Philip Moses Russell at the Mikveh Israel Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The grave of Philip Moses Russell at the Mikveh Israel Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

In honor of July 4, the Jerusalem Post has taken a look at the role of Jewish patriots in U.S. military history.

Even before the American revolution, Philip Moses Russell of Richmond, Va,, a religious Jewish originally from Philadelphia, served under Gen. George Washington at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania as a “surgeon’s mate.” There he cared for the sick and wounded while revolutionary forces were under blockade by the British. 

The National Archives document Russel as the only known American Jewish soldier present at this significant event in U.S. history. Later, during the Civil War, Union soldier Nathan Levy of Wilmington, Del., had been imprisoned in the South. Seven Confederate Jewish soldiers were also held by Northern forces.

During the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt in the early 20th century, Oscar Strauss was the first Jewish man to hold a major cabinet position as secretary of commerce and labor. Later during World War I, 100,000 American Jewish soldiers fought under Gen. John J. Pershing. Many also fought in World War II,  the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts.

Also notable is the fact that 40 percent of American Jewish doctors also served in the military during World War II.

Posted on July 3, 2014 .