Wednesday, January 11, 2012

BENADOR: Today in 1775: First Jewish American Patriot held Office and died for America

Foreword by Goodwill Ambassador Eliana Batsheva Benador

The situation in our beloved America is dire. Many of us are seeing the tide changing and not for the best.

We live in this beautiful country as free men and women. We have been a striving population of millions of Jews, American Jews.

We are taught from birth to respect and adapt and adopt the customs and traditions of the host country -and our loyalty is unquestioned.

For us, what's good for America, is good for us, for our people, and for the Land G-d gave to our people, Israel.

America has been and is our home away from home.

And it is with love and loyalty that we, unhesitatingly, pledge allegiance to our country, the United States of America, and to our flag:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

It is, therefore, with pride that today, we celebrate that on this same day in 1775, the Jewish American patriot, Francis Salvador, became the first Jew to take his seat on the South Carolina Provincial Congress.

Thus, Francis Salvador became the first Jew to hold an elected office in "the Americas." He was also the first Jewish soldier killed in the American War for Independence

Born in 1747, Salvador descended from a line of prominent Sephardic Jews who made their home in London. His great grandfather, Joseph, was the East India Company's first Jewish director. His grandfather was influential in bravely moving a group of 42 Jewish colonists to Savannah, Georgia, in 1733 despite the colony's prohibition on Jewish settlers. The Salvadors then purchased land in South Carolina.

After the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 destroyed their Portuguese property and the East India Company collapsed, draining the family's resources, the American property was all the Salvadors had left.

In 1773, Francis Salvador left his wife and children in London to establish himself in South Carolina with the hope of rebuilding his family's fortune. Within a year of his arrival, Salvador won a seat in the South Carolina General Assembly. In 1774, South Carolinians elected Salvador to the revolutionary Provincial Congress, which began to meet in January 1775, and in which Salvador spoke forcefully for the cause of independence.

On July 1, Salvador earned the nickname "Southern Paul Revere" when he rode 30 miles to warn of a Cherokee attack on backcountry settlements. Exactly one month later, while leading a militia group under the general command of Major General James Wilkinson, Salvador and his men were ambushed by a group of Cherokees and Loyalists near present-day Seneca, South Carolina. Salvador was shot and scalped by the Cherokees. Although he survived long enough to know that the militia had won the engagement, he never learned that the South Carolina delegation to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia had taken his advice and voted for independence from Britain.

Salvador was the first recorded Jewish soldier killed in the American War for Independence. He died at the age of 29, never having managed to bring his wife and children from London to the new country for which he fought so bravely.


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