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Uriah Phillips Levy


Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  Monticello/Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Monticello/Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Uriah P. Levy (1792-1862) was one of the most impressive and colorful American military leaders during the 19th century, and was a member of Shearith Israel. He served in the War of 1812 as master of the brig, Argus. After destroying twenty-one English ships, he was captured and imprisoned for sixteen months in England. Upon his release, he returned to America where he continued to serve in the U.S. Navy, rising to the highest rank of Commodore. Although he was subjected to anti-Jewish prejudice throughout the course of his illustrious career, he persisted in his efforts to free the American military from religious discrimination. He is credited with having convinced the navy to abolish its cruel policy of punishing sailors by flogging in 1850.

While commanding a naval vessel in the eastern Mediterranean he procured a wagon load of soil from the Holy Land.  It's use ceremonial at Shearith Israel burials as a symbolic identification with the Promised Land.  Uriah P. Levy is buried in the Cypress Hills cemetery of Shearith Israel.  His tombstone reads that he was the father of the law for abolishing corporal punishment in the navy.

A great admirer of Thomas Jefferson, Commodore Levy purchased Jefferson’s mansion, Monticello, in 1836. He and members of the Levy family lovingly preserved it as an American historic treasure until 1923, when the property was purchased by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.

A destroyer-escort, built for the United States Navy in World War II, was named after him. The Jewish chapel at the United States Naval Academy is named in honor of Commodore Levy.


Synagogue tradition associates this Hanukkah lamp with the First Mill Street Synagogue of 1730.

Hebrew School History

In 1802, Meir Polonies donated $900 to fund our Hebrew School