A statue of Commodore Uriah P. Levy was dedicated in mid-December at Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia, Pa. Commodore Levy was the first Jewish admiral to serve in the U.S. Navy. Many distinguished scholars and American military personnel including former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman and Rear Admiral Herman A. Shelanski, Commander, Carrier Strike Force 10, Norfolk, Virginia, attended the ceremony. Both Lehman and Shelanski were the principal speakers.
Joshua Landes, a member of JINSA's Board of Directors, was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. In addition, Landes and his father, Rabbi Aaron Landes, a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral (Chaplain), and Captain Gary Tabach, USN (ret.), a former NATO Military Liaison Mission chief of staff, were the principal persons who arranged for the statue to be installed at the Philadelphia congregation where Commodore Levy was a member and where he became a bar mitzvah in 1805.
Because of the importance of the event, other sponsors in addition to JINSA included the American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History and the Jewish Chaplains Council.
Many of the speakers focused on the important role that Commodore Levy played in setting the stage for all future Jewish Americans to serve with distinction in the armed forces of the United States. His career and life can best be summed up by the words on the plaque that will be affixed to the base of the statue:
Born in Philadelphia in 1792, Uriah Phillips Levy was a fifth generation American....He served with distinction in the U.S. Navy in the War of 1812 and became the first Jewish Navy Commodore - equivalent to the rank of Admiral today.
During his 50-year career, Levy was brought before a court martial six times...(in) incidents all related to rampant anti-Semitism. He was dismissed twice from the Navy, but was reinstated by Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler. He went on to command the Mediterranean fleet and was appointed to head the Navy Court Martial Board by President Lincoln. He helped repeal the flogging of sailors making the U.S. Navy the first in the world to abolish physical punishment.
Levy always admired Thomas Jefferson and the U.S. Constitution he crafted which safeguard liberties for all Americans. In1834, Levy purchased Jefferson's Monticello, which he repaired, restored and preserved for future generations.
A World War II destroyer escort was named in his honor as were the Jewish Chapel at the United States Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia and the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
The top of the bronze plaque contains the following quote from Commodore Levy.
"I AM AN AMERICAN, A SAILOR AND A JEW."
Editors Note: Marvin Klemow, a supporter and early Board Member of JINSA from its inception wrote the above article. He told us the sculptor of the Levy statue was Gregory Potosky. Potosky also completed a bust of Al Schwimmer, the first president and founder of Israel Aircraft Industries. The bust is on display at IAI's visitor center. For 32 years, Klemow was IAI's vice president in Washington, DC.