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Concord man’s donation helps preserve Revolutionary Jewish-American history

By Henry Schwan
Wicked Local Concord
November 15, 2015 at 8:03am

CONCORD, MA. Philadelphia is known for Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the cheesesteak sandwich.

Now, there is one more item to add to the list — a collection of Jewish-American artifacts donated by a Concord man.

Dr. Joseph L. “Joel” Andrews gave the artifacts to the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, and they have become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

“It miraculous the collection has survived,” Andrews said. “There’s a real treasure there.”

The artifacts include books, documents and marriage certificates, and many were stored in a box that survived a flooded basement.

Andrews knew they needed a safe place where they could tell the history of his family — which dates back 11 generations and more than 300 years in America — so with the help of Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, Andrews honed in on the museum in Philadelphia.

Andrews didn’t give the museum all of his items — one he kept is an 1806 Haggadah, a book containing the liturgy for Seder services, that still has wine stains on it from the years his ancestors used it in Passover services.

Andrews attended the exhibit opening Nov. 8 with two of his three children — Sara Andrews and Jennifer Andrews Burke. His son Joe couldn’t make it from his home in Silicon Valley in California.


Dr. Joseph L. “Joel” Andrews and his family have an exhibit in the National Museum of American Jewish History, tracing their roots as a Jewish family in America. He is shown Nov. 10 with a portrait of Joseph Andrews, born in what is now France in 1753 and who died in Philidelphia in 1824, as well as photos of his parents Katherine New and Joseph L. Andrews in 1929. Wicked Local Staff Photo/Ann Ringwood

Andrews called the opening “wistful” because, while he said he’s happy the artifacts have a permanent home, he will miss having them around the house.

“I’ve enjoyed the books and documents,” Andrews said. “I look at them periodically.”

Andrews said his father Joseph collected the items, and he’s amazed his father held onto them because of difficult circumstances in childhood. His father became an orphan at 12, and was adopted by an aunt, the widow of a rabbi.

“She must have helped him preserve these things,” Andrews said.

Andrews said his ancestors include his great-great-great grandfather Haym Salomon, a key financial backer of George Washington’s Continental Army, and Col. Isaac Franks and Maj. Benjamin Nones, who both fought as officers under Washington.

Haym Salomon married Rachel Franks, Isaac Franks’ sister, in 1777. Their daughter Sallie married Joseph Andrews in 1794, and thus began the Andrews lineage in America.

The history of his early American family is important to Andrews, because many people have “no idea of early American Jewish history,” he said.

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