Was Hamilton Actually Jewish?

Was Alexander Hamilton a member of the tribe? Even though it’s not easy finding hard, cold evidence that Hamilton was one of the Chosen People, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a very real possibility. Why does this matter though? What can we learn about Jewish identity here? After watching the video, use the prompts below to learn more and get your students thinking.

  1. Which of the following facts about Alexander Hamilton are false?
    • He was one of George Washington’s closest advisors
    • He authored most of the Federalist papers
    • He was the first secretary of the treasury
    • He was an ordained Rabbi
  2. True or false? Rabbinic law dictates that Judaism is passed through patrilineal descent.
  3. What is a Jewish marriage contract called?
    • Ketuba
    • Ktiva
    • Nisuin
    • Get
  4. The last name “Lavian” is most likely a descendant of which tribe of Israel?
  5. Based on the evidence presented in the video, do you think Alexander Hamilton was Jewish? Why or why not?
  1. If Alexander Hamilton didn’t identify as a Jew or participate in Jewish life, should we even care if he was Jewish?
  2. If Alexander Hamilton hid his Judaism throughout his life, what does that teach us about the Jewish experience in America? How has it changed throughout the years?
  3. In the video, the argument is made that “history is never settled. It’s always open to new evidence and interpretations that expand our understanding of the past.” How can this assessment be potentially problematic? Come up with examples.
  1. Show your students Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s video “Why I am a Jew”. After viewing and giving your students the opportunity to reflect on their own viewpoints and life experiences, ask them to share their answers to the question “Why I am a Jew.”
  2. Read this article about Haym Solomon, the Jew known as the financial hero of the American Revolution. As a group, brainstorm a list of Jewish heroes from the country you live in. Which ones are most inspiring to you?
  3. Give your students our Kahoot on Alexander Hamilton.

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