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September 16: The Great Seal

September 16, 2014
The Great Seal of the United States of America was impressed upon a document for the first time on this date in 1782, three months after its design was approved by Congress. Used on passports, military insignia, embassy placards, flags and other government documents, the Great Seal portrays an eagle clasping an olive branch and thirteen arrows, and a “glory” with thirteen stars arranged on a blue field — in the pattern of a Jewish star. This pattern, which also has appeared since 1935 on dollar bills, has produced a nonsensical, sometimes anti-Semitic literature about Jewish influence over the United States. The best-known myth is that Haym Solomon, an important financier of the American Revolution, requested the Star of David configuration to George Washington. Washington, however, had no input into the design of the Great Seal. “The reason why artist Robert Scot chose to arrange that constellation of 13 stars into the shape of a hexagram when engraving the first die of the Great Seal in 1782... is unknown,” says, “but the best guess is that he was emulating the arrangement of stars on the first American flag.” “[T]he official State Department document describing the history of the seal makes no mention of any Jewish symbolism. Darlene Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which manufactures paper money, says there is no intentional Jewish symbolism on the dollar bill.... So why has this myth captured the imagination of American Jews? Dr. Jonathan Sarna... says it has helped American Jews proudly connect themselves to their country’s formative era.” —Benjamin Goldberg. JEWDAYO ROCKS: Justine Frischmann, lead singer of Elastica, was born in London on this date in 1969. To see her leading the band on the song “Stutter,” look below.