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June 28, 1968 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1968-06-28

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The First American 'Jewish' General Commemorated in Delancey Street

Considering the spectacular mili-
tary prowess Jews — in Israel at
any rate — have been displaying
recently, one cannot be blamed for
Who was the first American Jew-
ish general? Undoubtedly, says
Prof. Jacob R. Marcus, director of
American Jewish Archives, Oliver
DeLancey was the first.
Prof. Marcus also points out that
Gen. DeLancey was not much of
an American and even less of a
Jew! Born in colonial New York,
Oliver was the son of a Christian
patrician of the same name and
Phila Franks DeLancey, a girl of
Orthodox Jewish upbringing. His
mother's Jewish origin notwith-
standing, young DeLancey was
reared as an Anglican, and when
he finally became a general it was
in the British not the American
army. Still Gen. DeLancey was a
native American, and, according
to rabbinic law, of course, he was,
as the son of a Jewish mother, un-
questionably a Jew.
The general's father, Oliver,
Sr., belonged to one of the rich-
est and most aristocratic families
in colonial New York. He secret-
ly courted Phila Franks, the

daughter of colonial America's
greatest Jewish merchant, Jacob
Franks, a fully observant Ortho-
dox Jew. The young couple had
been secretly married for six
months before Phila's parents
learned of the match. Bitterly
opposed to intermarriage Jacob
and Abigail Franks Phila's fa-
ther and mother, were heart-
Abigail wrote to a son in Eng-
land: "I shall never have that ser-
enity nor peace within, I have so
happily had hitherto . .. I wish it
was in my power to leave this
part of the world; I would come
away in the first man-of-war that
went to London." Finally, however,
the Frankses reconciled themselves
to the marriage, and their Chris-
tian son-in-law ultimately became
a partner or agent in the huge
commissary enterprises they and
their English relatives managed in
the American colonies.
The Anglo-American Franks clan
and its Christian associates were
the British army's chief supply of-
ficers in America during the third
quarter of the 1700s. When the
home in which Oliver Sr. and Phila
lived was sold to an innkeeper, it
became known as Fraunces tavern,

Historic `Sefer 1-111-Qabbalah


Tradition. By Abranam Ibn Daud. A
critical edition with a translation and
notes by Gerson D. Cohen. Jewish
Publication Society of America.

Reviewed by Prof. Salo W. Baron
Ibn Daud's Chronicle has served
both Jewish scholarship and the
Jewish public as well for many
generations. It has long been rec-
ognized as our major source of
information concerning the com-
munal and intellectual leadership
of Spanish Jewry during its Golden
Age. Its numerous data pertain-
ing to earlier periods have also
enriched our knowledge of the
history of the Jewish tradition of
the talmudic and geonic ages. Pre-
sented in a simple, lucid, and yet
often eloquent Hebrew this work
has always greatly appealed to
Hebrew readers. Because of its
devotion to the Rabbinate religious
and its rejection of the Karaite
schism and all it stood for, it often
also served as a means of edifica-
tion and strengthening of the faith
of some wavering Jews.
All this despite the unavailability
of proper texts. Not until the end
of the 19th Century, when
Adolph Neubauer published a re-
vised edition based upon a few
good documents was there a work-
able text available for research
scholars. But even that text left
much to be desired from the view-
point of the scholarly standards of
our day. Hence Jewish scholarship
is greatly indebted to Professor
Cohen for placing at its disposal a
much improved version based


upon ten primary manuscripts as
well as the first edition. Numer-
ous variants appearing in these
primary sources are here supplied
for the discerning reader, thereby
enabling him to use his own judg-
ment in the selection of a particu-
lar reading. This well-annotated
edition, enriched by a technical
introduction in Hebrew, is accom-
panied by a fine English transla-
tion with many interpretive notes.
Going, however, much beyond
the usual editorial job, Prof.
Cohen has added a number, of
excursuses and notes which con-
siderably enhance the value of
this work. Many of these notes are
independent studies which not
only elucidate Ibn Daud's sources
and approaches to history but
also shed significant light on his
reinterpretation of the traditional
lore of the "Four Empires" con-
nected with the Jewish messianic
expectation, the position of the
rabbinate, and other basic ideas
which dominated the minds of
medieval Jews.
In short, Prof. Cohen and
The Jewish Publication Society
have been able to place in the
hands of Jewish and non-Jewish
readers not only an eminently
useful instrument for further re-
search but also many delightful
and thought-provoking pages writ-
ten by both author and editor
which should be of great interest
to scholars and intelligent laymen

"The Queen's Head," and it was
there that Washington made his
famous farewell address in 1783 to
the officers of the Revolution.
Oliver Jr., the first "American
Jewish" general, was born in
1749. That same year, probably
while his mother was still carry-
ing him, Oliver Sr. and some of
his cronies got drunk, blackened
their faces, and broke into the
home of a Dutch Jewish immi-
grant who had an attractive wife.
Oliver threatened to rape the
woman, but her indignant hus-
band could persuade no lawyer
to take the case, since Oliver's
brother James was the chief jus-
tice of the colony. Obviously
Oliver Sr. had a penchant for
Jewish women.
Young Oliver entered the British
army and rose to the very top. For
a time he was a Deputy Quarter-
master General, and he held other
important economic posts as well.
In his later years, he was accused
of misappropriating army funds
amounting to many thousands of
pounds, but was exonerated of any
intent to defraud. He received the
coveted promotion to a full gen-
eralship in 1812, 10 years before
his death in Scotland.
There is no evidence that Gen.

Michigan has more than 80 de-
veloped winter sports areas.

DeLancey, although he was cer-
tainly in touch with his mother's THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Friday, June 28, 1968-17
brothers, who were am on g the
great Jewish merchants of the Brit-
ish empire, ever manifested the
slightest interest in Jews or Ju-
daism. Ironically enough, 150 years
later Delancey Street on • New
York's Lower East Side, named
for him, would become a focus of
the settlement of immigrant Jews
in the New World.
Residential and Commercial
Numerous Franks family papers
are to be seen in the American
Jewish Archives on the Cincinnati
campus of the Hebrew Union Col-
lege-Jewish Institute of Religion.
They form only a small part of the
archives' extensive collection of
colonial documents.


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