By Melvin Urofsky
What is unusual about Jewish history in Virginia is how very usual it is. Jewish people were involved in the early settlement of the colony; they farmed, traded, explored, fought in the Revolution, struggled successfully alongside other non-Anglicans for religious freedom, owned slaves, joined their neighbors in supporting the Confederacy, and in general have shared the ups and downs of Virginia for nearly four centuries.
This is not to say that Jewish history has perfectly tracked Virginia history at all times. In this century the Holocaust and the State of Israel have had special meaning to Jewish Americans, but here again, the understanding and support evinced by Virginians of all faiths have affirmed that Jewish people are part and parcel of the ongoing history of the commonwealth.
For the past four centuries, Jewish Virginians have fought in all wars in which the Old Dominion has participated and have contributed to the prosperity of the commonwealth as a whole and to the well-being of individual cities and towns. They have held elected and appointed office, ranging from local council members and mayors to members of the General Assembly and Congress. They have served as volunteers and leaders of public enterprises, and, perhaps most important of all, they have been neighbors.
They have done so not as a despised minority cravenly seeking tolerance but as proud citizens of the state. They have been, as one observer noted, "a part but not apart" from the history of Virginia. In this volume Melvin Urofsky shows, aside from their religious beliefs, there is little to distinguish Jewish Virginians from their Christian neighbors.
190 pages, Softcover, ISBN: 0945015-16-x, Virginia Historical Society, 1997.
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