Moses Goldwater is a community contributor to GTJ. The opinions in this piece are his own and do not represent a GTJ institutional stance.
On May 5, 2012, there is a 5K race on the Saunders-Monticello trail with all proceeds going to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF). But where is the Saunders-Monticello trail you ask? It is just outside of Charlottesville, VA (a three hour drive from DC) and runs up to the estate of Thomas Jefferson (if you have ever seen a nickel, you have seen a “picture” of Monticello before).
So what’s the Jewish connection?
There would be no Monticello today if it were not for the Jews, in particular US Navy Commodore Uriah P. Levy and his nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy.
Thomas Jefferson, like many of the founding fathers, lived beyond his means and died in debt. To appease creditors, his heirs sold off the estate and much of its contents. The subsequent owner did little to preserve the estate so, eight years after Thomas Jefferson died, the Levy family purchased the estate. Over the next 89 years, they did their best to refurbish it and recover Jefferson’s treasures. (Monticello is now a National Historic Landmark and owned by the TJF.)
Whether you admire, question, or even know much of about the life of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello is a must-see. Besides being the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States, Jefferson was, among other things, a self-taught architect, an inventor, a historian, and an avid book collector (in one corner of Monticello, you can see Jefferson’s multiple copies of Don Quixote in different languages).
The tour of Monticello pulls no punches; it acknowledges the children Jefferson fathered out of wedlock with his slaves, but it is only recently that the Levy family’s contribution was recognized. So whether you are runner, a patriot, or just looking for an excuse to explore some of the vineyards in Central Virginia, a tour of Monticello is an excellent weekend trip made possible, in part, by the Levy family.
To sign up for the 5K, click here.