In Georgia it was a Jew who took the lead in establishing the first “American” government
in that colony. Mordecai Sheftall was a second-generation Jewish resident of Savannah and in the late summer of 1774, he became the head of the Parochial Committee of Christ Church Parish. He
worked hard to fully implement the Non-Importation Agreements and other resolutions of the fist Continental Congress and became known to the Governor, Sir James Wright, as a
When hostilities came to Georgia, Sheftall became the commissary general for Georgia’s militia and Continental Army. This earned him event more scorn from the British and when Savannah fell in December, 1778, Sheftall was imprisoned for about a year and a half. The British Army paroled him but only under the objections of Governor Wright, who wrote to his superiors in London suggesting that all the Jews of Georgia not be allowed to return to Savannah and that future Jewish settlers
be entirely excluded: “For these people, my lord, were found to a man to have been violent rebels and persecutors of the king’s loyal subjects. And however this law may appear at first sight, be assured, my lord, that the times require these exertions, and without which the loyal subjects can have no peace in the province or security in this province.”
Mordecai Sheftall’s career during the Revolution was hardly typical. He was the highest-ranking Jew in the Continental Army carrying the rank of colonel. Quite an achievement for a time when no one could hold political or military office unless they took a Christian oath.