July 4, 1776, was a pivotal and extraordinary day, bringing freedom and liberty into a dictatorial and oppressive world. The American Revolution against tyranny brought the ability for all to practice their respective religions. Judaism was allowed to flourish. There were 2000 to 3000 Jews at the time of the Revolutionary War. They were concentrated in New York City; Philadelphia; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina. There were only 2 million people in the colonies at the time; only 45% actually participated in the war effort against the British. Actual independence was not achieved until September 3, 1783, in the “Treaty of Paris.” This September 3, we will celebrate 240 years of actual Independence from the British.

Haym Salomon, chief financier and close friend of George Washington

  All of this would not have been possible had it not been for the chief financier and close friend of George Washington, Haym Salomon. This is not the first time I am writing about one of the greatest Jewish Americans - and it won’t be the last. He died penniless and young at the age of 44 for his heroic efforts.

Salomon was born in Poland. He contracted Tuberculosis on the infamous British prison ship The Provost in 1775 but was released because he could speak German to the Hessian mercenaries. He was later tried by the British and sentenced to be hung. He escaped to Philadelphia, where he came in contact with the Continental Congress. As a result, he became in essence one of the Founding Fathers of America. Over 70 letters between him and General George Washington exist. When I speak to political figures, I rarely find that any of them know the Haym Salomon story, which I make sure to tell them. He gave or raised $650,000 to the Revolutionary War effort, which in today’s terms would be tens of millions of dollars. When General George Washington nearly had a mutiny on his hands because soldiers could barely afford shoes and were owed wages before the most critical battle of the War at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, Salomon stepped in and provided the $20,000 needed. General Charles Cornwallis was defeated and the British began negotiating peace.

Isaac Franks helped lead the battle against the British in Long Island

  Haym Salomon married the sister of another hero of the Revolution, Isaac Franks, who was a Lt. Colonel (commissioned after the war) on General George Washington’s staff. He helped lead the battle against the British in Long Island in 1776. He was taken as a POW by the British, but escaped in a leaky boat after three months of imprisonment.
  Another member of the Frank’s family, David Salisbury Franks, not only fought in the Revolutionary War, but was actually was responsible for helping negotiate the Treaty of Paris, which he delivered to Benjamin Franklin in 1783.
Francis Salvador was the first elected Jew in public office in the nascent United States. He was from Sephardic heritage. He lived in South Carolina. He was the first soldier killed by the British and their Cherokee Indian allies in the Revolutionary War. After being shot, he was scalped by the Cherokees.

David Salisbury Franks was responsible for helping negotiate the Treaty of Paris

No one can say that the Jews did not spill their own blood for the formation of America. The Jews were very much part of creating the greatest Democracy that has ever existed on Planet Earth. This July 4, I hope the Jewish contribution to this extraordinary enterprise is fully appreciated and recognized.

Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.