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Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy

Posted on Monday, July 6, 2020

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Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy (1792-1862), Congregation Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia

Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy

April 22, 1792 to March 22, 1862
(Nissan 30, 5552 to Adar II 20, 5622)

"I am an American, a sailor and a Jew."

Born in Philadelphia in 1792, Uriah Phillips Levy with a 5th generation American. According to family stories, Levy left for sea at 10 years of age, returning to Philadelphia to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Mikveh Israel in 1805.

Levy served with distinction in the U.S. Navy in the War of 1812, and he became the first Jewish U.S. Navy Commodore, a rank equivalent to Admiral today.

During his 50 year naval career, Levy was court martialed six times and killed a man in a duel, all incidents related to rampant antisemitism. He was dismissed twice from the U.S. Navy, but he was reinstated by President James Monroe and President John Tyler. He commanded the Mediterranean Fleet and was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to lead the U.S. Navy Court Martial Board during the Civil War.

Levy played a key role in helping to repeal the flogging of sailors, making the U.S. Navy the first military organization in the world to abolish physical punishment.

Levy greatly admired President Thomas Jefferson and the Bill of Rights which he helped to inspire and which James Madison wrote, which safeguarded religious liberties for all Americans.

In 1832, he commissioned a statue of Jefferson which is displayed in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. today. 

Levy believed that the "homes of great men should be preserved as monuments to their glory." To that end, in 1834, Levy purchased Monticello, Jefferson's home near Charlottesville, Virginia, which Levy lovingly repaired, restored and preserved for future generations.


The World War II destroyer escort USS Levy (DE-162) was named in his honor, as were the Uriah P. Levy Jewish Chapel at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, and the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Levy is buried at Beth Olom Cemetery in Queens, New York.

Sculptor: Gregory Potosky
Given with love of God and Country
In Memory of Vice Admiral James A. Zimble, MC USN Ret. (1933-2011), Beloved 30th Surgeon General of the United States Navy
Dedicated: December 16, 2011
Rabbi Aaron Landes, Rear Admiral CHC USN Ret.
Captain Gary "Yuri" Tabach, USN Ret.
Joshua Landes

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