The American Revolution was a time of great upheaval for the American colonists. Nearly everyone was affected, no matter whether they supported or opposed the revolution. The Jewish colonists were no different than their neighbors in the community’s divided loyalties.
Many Jews joined the revolution and fought alongside their fellow colonists. One noted Jewish soldier was Solomon Bush of Philadelphia, PA. In July 1777, Bush was appointed deputy adjutant-general of the Pennsylvania militia. Later that year, he was not only seriously wounded in the thigh during a skirmish with the British, but, shortly thereafter, taken prisoner. Freed during a prisoner exchange, Bush continued to serve the Continental Army, and, as a lieutenant colonel, was the highest ranking Jewish officer. (Bush is also noted in the congregation’s records as a contributor to Mikveh Israel Congregation in Philadelphia.)
While some sided with the colonists, others were loyalists.
Many of the Jews who were loyalists took refuge in British-controlled New York City . They were not wrong to be concerned about their safety. According to the Royal Gazette (published in New York): Mr. Isaac Hart, of Newport in Rhode-Island, formerly an eminent merchant, and ever a loyal subject, was inhumanly fired upon bayoneted, wounded in fifteen different parts of his body, and beat with their muskets in the most shocking manner in the very act of imploring quarter, and died of his wounds in a few hours after, universally regretted by every true lover of his King and country.
There were also many Jews who felt divided in their own loyalties. Abraham Wagg, who was living in New York City at the outbreak of the war, left for England in 1779. Although he chose to stay with the British, he nevertheless had positive feelings for the colonists and offered suggestions for bringing peace between the two sides.
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