Jewish Ideas and the American Founders

In a series of eight lectures, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik explores the Jewish ideas that inspired America’s founding generation and helped make the United States such an exceptional home for the Jews.

The lecture series is one of two online courses offered by the Tikvah Fund, a non-profit organization committed to advancing Jewish excellence and Jewish flourishing in the modern age.



1. The Yiddish Letter and the Declaration: The Incredible Story of Jonas Phillips, the First Truly American Jew

Rabbi Soloveichik traces the life of Jonas Phillips, a German Jew who came to America in 1756 as an indentured servant and became a dedicated patriot who fathered of one of America’s most important Jewish families.

2. America’s Passover: Franklin, Jefferson, and the Seal of the United States

What relation did the founding have to Judaism? Rabbi Soloveichik investigates the story surrounding the creation of the United States’ official seal and the committee convened to determine that what the seal would be.

3. From the Talmud to Thomas Paine: Political Hebraism and the American Revolution

Though Thomas Paine was a non-believer, the heart of his Common Sense draws on the Hebrew Bible.

4. The Founding Father and the Huppah

Returning to the Phillips’ family story, Rabbi Soloveichik recounts the occasion of the marriage of Jonas’ daughter Rachel and the founding father who attended her wedding.

5. Washington, Seixas, and Giving Thanks

Ratification of the Constitution was a contentious process, but America’s Jews, in contrast to many other religious groups, supported ratification by large margins.

6. Continue to Water them with the Dews of Heaven

After George Washington’s inauguration, the divided Jewish communities of the new nation sent him three separate letters. His responses teach us a great deal about America’s relationship with the Jewish people.

7. Adams, Jefferson, and the Jews

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams—the founding generation’s preeminent intellectual leaders—differed mightily about the value of the Jews and Judaism

8. The Home We Build Together

The Jewish wedding canopy reminds Americans of their distinct conception of religious freedom and the remarkable possibility of integration without assimilation.

>> Click here to enroll


Rabbi Meir Soloveichik

The instructor of the course, Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik, is director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. Prior to this, Soloveichik served as associate rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan. Rabbi Soloveichik has lectured throughout the United States, in Europe, and in Israel to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences on topics relating to Jewish theology, bioethics, wartime ethics, and Jewish-Christian relations. His essays on these subjects have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Mosaic, Commentary, First Things, the Jewish Review of Books, Tradition, and the Torah U-Madda Journal. In August 2012, he gave the invocation at the opening session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. He is the son of Rabbi Eliyahu Soloveichik, grandson of the late Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, and the great nephew of the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.



Want to help the Jack Miller Center transform higher education? Donate today.



Portrait of Jonas Phillips