The Jewish Connection at Monticello
Who knew that Monticello had a Jewish connection.
Let me explain, my Montgomery College colleague Dr. Francine Jamin recently visited Monticello as a result of her creation of the Jefferson Cafe (R), whereby a limited number of attendees read a text before hand and then meet to discuss the text and any related issues that arise via the discussion. Francine learned that after President Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 his eldest daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph inherited the estate which was in dire straits.
In short, Martha sold Monticello to James T. Barclay in 1831 who then sold the property to Uriah P. Levy, a Jewish commissioned officer in the USA Navy. Of course the Civil War came to the area, but after an extended period of legalities, the Levy estate eventually sold the property to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923, and the rest is history.
While talking to Francine, I asked if she had wine while Monticello, because after all Jefferson introduced wine grapes to Virginia, but not to what is now the USA–that honor would go to the Spanish in what is now El Paso–the brandy was superb in New Spain and after all the monks needed wine to celebrate mass.
Then we both learned thanks to our mutual colleague Ben Henry, who has taught at Montgomery College for over 46 years and counting, that it was Jefferson who introduced rice to the USA as a result of planting some rice in the area that he had gotten while in France.
My memories of Monticello are good ones, less the unpleasant experience I had while at the grave site but I won\’t go into that at the moment, and it is high time to return to Monticello with the hopes that perhaps the Commonwealth of Virginia will acknowledge that the Spanish were in the area that is currently Jamestown (years before 1607) and the Cheasapeake Bay before the English came over and that Monticello will have come to terms with both the Jewish as well as the African slave contributions to its heritage.