Sunday, June 4, 2017

June 2017

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XIV, Number 6                                                                     June 1, 2017

SAVANNAH: Early Friday afternoon, May 5, was a perfect spring day in Savannah, Georgia, with blue skies, a pleasant breeze, and temperatures in the low seventies. Making things even more perfect was the fact that I walked into historic Mickve Israel synagogue that afternoon (with my wife Janna and old friends Moses and Sarah Lyn Robbins) to be greeted by two active members of the Congregation—Margie Levy and Kerry Rosen.

They had invited me to be that weekend’s Scholar in Residence at Mickve Israel, and give talks on my books Flag: An American Biography and Saving Monticello. And it was my absolute pleasure to do so.

Margie and Kerry sat us down in the spectacular sanctuary and gave us a personalized guided tour of the building. They covered the Congregation’s long history—including the fact that it’s the third-oldest Jewish congregation in the nation, having been founded by 42 Jews who had escaped the Spanish Inquisition (in Lisbon) and come to Savannah in 1733. Among that group, as I wrote in Saving Monticello, was Dr. Samuel Nunez, Uriah Levy’s great great grandfather.

Executive Director Jennifer Rich and Rabbi Robert Haas came by to welcome us, then Margie and Kerry took us upstairs to the terrific museum, which includes the two oldest Torah scrolls in North America, a collection of letters from thirteen presidents including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, plus a short history of Uriah Levy and Monticello.

We attended Friday night services and I did the talk on the American flag after dinner in the temple’s hall with Jennifer’s valuable A/V assistance. The next day we were back for Saturday morning services, welcomed heartily by the Congregation’s President Bubba Rosenthal, who had introduced me before my flag talk Friday evening.

Rabbi Haas invited me to say a few words near the end of the service. He also reminded everyone that I would be talking about Monticello, and said (with a smile) that few people knew that Thomas Jefferson was Jewish—and had had a bar mitzvah.

I thanked everyone for inviting me and said how special it felt to physically be in the place I had read so much—and written so much—about. It’s the same feeling I had when I did a talk in March 2002 on Saving Monticello in New York City at Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the nation, and the place where members of the Levy family worshiped. That included Uriah Levy and his nephew L. Napoleon Levy, who was the president of the congregation in the 1890s, and his brother Jefferson Monroe Levy, who plays such a big role in Saving Monticello.

I posed for the picture below after services, then we had lunch in the hall, and I did the talk. I was pleased to meet my Facebook friend, Connie Eunice Nunes, who runs a Nunez family Facebook group, and who drove up from Jacksonsville for the occasion.

I also met many members of the Congregation. It was a memorable weekend and I thank everyone for inviting me and for being terrifically welcoming.

AT MONTICELLO: The day after I spoke in Savannah, Sunday, May 7, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik led a service (the Kaddish) with members of his Shearith Israel congregation and Yeshiva University students at the grave of Rachel Levy, Uriah Phillips Levy’s mother who is buried along Mulberry Row a Monticello.

The rabbi also included a memorial service for the Phillips family and for all Jewish American patriots.The Kaddish marked the first such Jewish ceremony at Rachel Levy’s grave in nearly two hundred years.Later that day the rabbi took part in a Conversation on Religious Freedom with the noted historian and biographer Jon Meacham at Monticello. 

EVENTS: My new book, Ballad of the Green Beret, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler, was published May 1. With the help of a publicist, I am working on arranging radio and TV appearances for the month of June. For info on them, go to the Author Evens page on my website:

For info on Ballad of the Green Beret, go to
Here are my in-person June events:

  • Friday, June 2 – 8:00 a.m. talk on Ballad of the Green Beret for the Dulles Airport Rotary Club in Herndon, Virginia.
  • Saturday, June 24 – 12:00 noon talk on Francis Scott Key at the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims luncheon in Charlottesville, Virginia

If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at
For details on other upcoming events, go to

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at I also have a few as-new, unopened hardcover copies. Or go to to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed, and Ballad of the Green Beret.