Chanukah at Valley Forge


george-washingtonIn December 1777, the fledgling American Revolution was at its weakest and most vulnerable point. The patriot army, led by George Washington, had relocated to Valley Forge, New Jersey, and its men were starving, dressed in tatters, and shivering in the bitter cold. The entire army was sunk in a depression, and it seemed that the dream of a free, independent America would
never come to fruition.

There is a legend that among the privates encamped at Valley Forge was a young Jew. When Chanukah arrived he lit candles, as he had been taught in his father’s house. As he sat by the lights, he suddenly noticed General George Washington standing over him.

“What is this candlestick?” the curious general asked.

“I brought it form my father’s house. The Jews all over the world light candles tonight, on Chanukah, the anniversary of a great miracle, “the young soldier explained. The soldier told his commander in chief the story of Chanukah and of the miracles Hashem had wrought. He told the story of the oil that lasted eight days and the battles with the Greeks, during which the few vanquished the man and the weak defeated the strong.

“We too will be victorious,” the Jewish soldier added.

The sight of the flickering candles and the story behind it intrigued Washington.

“You are a Jew from the nation of prophets. And you say we will be victorious?’

“Yes, You’re Excellency,” the soldier answered with conviction.”G-d will help us, and we will win<just like the Maccabees won. Be victorious for ourselves and for all those who come here after us to build a new land and new lives.”

The young Jew survived the war returned to his home. Some years later there was a knock at his door. He was astonished to find the President George Washington the first president of the United State, on his doorstep. The president was the first to speak.

“We are here to present you with this.” One of the men accompanying him handed the Jewish soldier a golden medallion on which was engraved the picture of menorah with the inscription, “With admiration, from General George Washington.

“You don’t know what you accomplished tat night at Valley Forge,” the president continued.”I couldn’t sleep that night because I was sure that we had no chance of winning. We lacked ammunition. We were outnumbered ten to one. We didn’t even have food.when I saw those boys lying asleep in the freezing cold under those thin blankets, it took away my resolve. I was seriously contemplating surrendering to the British. But your lights and your sharing of the story Of Chanukah changed all that. If it wasn’t for your menorah, I don’t know if we would be standing here today as free men .So we have come to present the medallion to you as a testimonial to the night, which was a turning point in our struggle for freedom.”

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  1. This doesn’t sound accurate. Why would Washington have been in a Private’s barracks? They didn’t have any communal rooms or mess halls.

  2. My wife is a member of the DAR, Daughters of the Revolution. Her grand father, some 7 generations back, was Phillip Moses Russel, the only Jew who fought with Washington at Valley Forge. This is a nice story but we never heard it. Russel was a surgeon’s mate and as such, had a close relationship with Washington. My understanding is that he was probably observant and was there over Chanukah. Much else is speculation.

  3. it’s a Presidentiala Maasah
    but is there a m’kor to it???

    Perhaps R’ Peysach Krohn or others can offer some input to confirm its validity???/


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