The Jewish contribution to – and impact on – the US may be measured by the Jewish profile in the US polity.
Thus, in 2019, the United States Jewish population is about 6 million people – 1.8% of the overall population. However, the Jewish track record in US politics documents 28 Jewish members of the US House of Representatives (6.5% of the House), 9 members of the US Senate (9% of the Senate), 3 Supreme Court Justices (33% of the High Court), 2 Governors (4% of Governors), 2 Lieutenant Governors (4%), 4 State Attorney Generals (8%) and 13 Mayors of major US cities, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Austin, Chattanooga and Anchorage.
The first Jewish Member of the House was Lewis Charles Levin (1845 – Pennsylvania’s 1st district); the first Jewish Senator was David Levy Yulee (1845 – Florida); the first Jewish Governor was Washington Bartlett (California – 1887) and the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice was Louis Brandeis (1916).
Moreover, Jewish roots in the US polity are deeper than 1621, when Elias Legarde, the first Jewish immigrant to the American Colonies, arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.
Jewish roots in the US were planted in 1620, upon the arrival of the Mayflower, which was the first boat sailing from Britain to the “New World.” According to the 102 Puritans on board, the Mayflower – as it was with the Arabella in 1630 – departed from “Modern day Egypt” (Britain), went through the “Modern day Parting of the Sea” (the Atlantic Ocean), and sailed to the “Modern day Promised Land” (the American Colonies).
Hence, the litany of US towns, cities, national parks, deserts and other sites bearing Biblical names, such as the 18 Jerusalems, 32 Salems (Jerusalem’s original Biblical name), 34 Bethels, 24 Shilos, Zion, Sharon, Canaan, Carmel, Rehoboth, Gilead, Bethlehem, Hebron, Mizpah, Nazareth, Ophir, etc.
The 1753 Liberty Bell enshrined the concept of liberty and independence as articulated by the Biblical concept of the Jubilee, with the engraving on the Bell: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus 25:10)”
Jewish roots featured prominently in Thomas Pain’s “Common Sense,” the cement of the 1776 American Revolution against the British king: “…The will of the Almighty, as declared by [the Biblical Judge] Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves of government by kings…. The Jews proposed making Gideon a king… but Gideon replied, ‘I will not rule over you, neither shall my son. The Lord shall rule over you….’ Samuel [warned the Jews]: [the king] will take your sons… and he will take your daughters… and he will take your fields… and he will take the tenth of your sheep, and ye shall be his servants….”
In 1975, a US Postal Department stamp featured Haym Salomon, who was among the wealthiest people in the colonies. He raised much of the money for the 1776 American Revolution and for the initial years of independence. Upon his death in 1785, his widow Rachel realized that Salomon committed their entire wealth to the American Revolution, leaving her destitute.
Adolphus Sterne, the eldest son of an Orthodox Jew, Emmanuel Sterne, and his Lutheran wife, Helen, resided in Nacogdoches, Texas and became a friend of Sam Houston, a leader of the Texas drive for independence from Mexican occupation, and the 1st President of the Republic of Texas. Sterne became a major financier of the 1836 Texas Revolution and smuggled guns to the Texas rebels. Adolphus Sterne spoke English, French, Spanish and Yiddish.
In 2019, the US Supreme Court features eight statues and engravings of Moses holding the Tablets, including the eastside entrance and the ceiling above the seats of the nine Justices. In 2019, there are 23 busts of the leading lawgivers in human history – including Moses and Maimonides – in the Chamber of the US House of Representatives. According to the Capitol Building curator, the bust of Moses is in the middle, facing the Speaker, while the other 22 busts are in profile, staring at Moses, because Moses was the source of human law, while the other lawgivers were the derivatives.
In 2019, Congresswoman Nita Lowey serves as the Chairwoman of the most powerful House Appropriations Committee, as well as the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and Related Agencies. John Yarmuth is Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Eliot Engel is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ted Deutch is Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and International Terrorism. Brad Sherman is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and non-Proliferation. Adam Schiff is Chairman of the House Permanent Committee on Intelligence. Jerrold Nadler is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Senator Chuck Schumer is the Leader of the Senate Democratic Minority.
Contrary to conventional wisdom which highlights Jewish PACs, campaign contributions, Jewish media personalities and AIPAC, the Jewish vote has played a significant role in shaping the US, in general, and the US polity, in particular, due to its turnout, which is almost twice the average US voter turnout. While Jews account for 1.8% of the US population, they account for 4% of the overall population voter turnout. The more complex the campaign trail, the less predictable the voting patterns; the slimmer the razor-thin election victories, the more significant is the Jewish vote locally, statewide and nationally.