Monday, January 4, 2016

January 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XIII, Number 1                                                                     January 1, 2016

MICKVE ISRAEL’S MUSEUM: Uriah Levy’s great-great grandfather, Samuel Nunes Ribiero, was a prominent, well-to-do Portuguese physician who was born in 1668 and fled the Spanish Inquisition with his family. The family first went to London, then boarded a ship in the spring of 1733 and landed in Savannah, Georgia, on July 11, six months after James Oglethorpe had started the colony named after his patron, King George II. Dr. Samuel Nunez, as he came to be known in the United States, became one of the most accomplished and well-known founders of the colony of Georgia.

Image result for 1733 torah mickve israel savannah

Dr. Nunez helped found the Mickve Israel Synagogue in Savannah in July 1735, which to this day on commemorative occasions still uses the Torah (in the case in the above) that was brought to Savannah by the Jews who landed in Savannah in 1733. Which brings us to the newly re-designed Gutstein Museum at Historic Congregation Mickve Israel which opened its doors in last July.

“We’ve been around for so long, and we’ve been a part of not only Savannah’s history, not only of Georgia’s history, but of our country’s history,” Bubba Rosenthal, Mickve Israel’s vice president, told a local reporter at the museum’s ribbon cutting. The event also commemorated the congregation’s 283rd anniversary. It is the third-oldest Jewish congregation in the country.

A second ancient Torah belonging to the synagogue is in the museum, along with a 15th century oil-burning menorah. The museum also includes a passenger list of the original Savannah Jewish settlers, the diaries of one of the first settlers, and minute books from 1790-1851, as well as a scale model of the William and Sarah, the ship that brought the Jewish families from London to Savannah. The museum is open to the public. Guided tours are offered on weekdays. For info, go to

THE UPPER FLOORS: An article by Diane Ehrenpreis, the assistant curator of decorative arts at Monticello, in the Winter 2015 issue of Antiques & Fine Art magazine ( offers an excellent look at the recently restored rooms on Monticello’s second and third floors in words and photographs.

“In contrast to Jefferson’s commodious suite on the first floor, the remaining family household—some thirteen people— lived in comparatively tight quarters on the second and third floors,” Ehrenpreis writes. “Until recently, these rooms were neither furnished nor open to the public. As a result of the Mountaintop Project, made possible by David M. Rubenstein and other donors, nine rooms and three passages have been restored and outfitted. Monticello’s visitors are now offered an in-depth look at the complexity of family life at Monticello.”

High-quality work has gone into the restoration and furnishing of the upstairs rooms. The rooms include the North Octagon Bedroom—which has been restored to its time as the room of Jefferson’s sister, Anne Scott Jefferson Marks, who lived at Monticello from 1812-28—and the north bedroom on the third floor, called the Double Alcove, where Jefferson’s grandsons lived.

Then there is the famed third floor Dome Rome (above), which Jefferson designed based the dome on the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. It served as a bedroom and a storage room during Jefferson’s time.

“Taken as a whole,” Ehrenpreis writes, “these reinstalled rooms and passages reveal the realities of power, status, and gender at Monticello, whether considering the complex and unequal relationship between Jefferson and his daughter [Martha Randolph, who lived at Monticello with her twelve children after Jefferson’s wife died], or the… slaves who labored upstairs.”

Special tours are offered of the upper floors. For info, go to

You can read the entire article on line at

EVENTS:  My next speaking event is not until February since, for the last three months, I have been in full-time writing mode for my next book, a biography of Barry Sadler, the U.S. Army Sergeant who wrote and performed “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” The book will be published in November.

I will be available to do talks on Saving Monticello—and my other books—after May 1. If you’d like to arrange an event please, email  For details on upcoming 2016 events, go to, the “Author Events” page on my website,

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at

Or go to to order copies through Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.