by Seymour "Sy" Brody
Aaron Lopez was a major factor in the Colonies' ability to continue to revolt against the British in their quest for freedom. He is said to have owned, whole or in part, 30 transoceanic ships and more than 100 coastal vessels that became an important delivery arm for supplying sorely needed supplies to the Revolutionary Army.
Despite the pressure put on his ships by the British to prevent them from supplying the Colonial Army, his ships managed to deliver the materials needed for the Revolution.
Lopez was a power in Newport, Rhode Island, for years, when the port city was described as a shipping center that "New York can never hope to rival." One of the reasons for this was Rhode Island's great religious liberalism, which attracted a substantial community of well-educated and able Jews, the most affluent in the Colonies.
Lopez, who was bom in Portugal in 1731 and died in Newport in 1782, was one of the most outstanding Jews. He was described by Ezra Styles, Christian pastor and president of Yale, as "a merchant of first eminence; for honor and extent of commerce probably surpassed by no merchant in America." Newport's shipping industry was most important to young America's growing strength and power that enabled it to revolt.
Lopez was also recognized as a promoter of friendly relations between the faiths. He was respected by Christians and Jews alike, and no ship ever left his dock on either's Sabbath, Lopez personally laid the cornerstone of Touro Synagogue in Newport, which is now a Federal Shrine.
In strong sympathy with the Revolutionary patriots, Lopez fled Newport when the British attacked. Although Newport was ruined in the war, he did attempt to return when peace was won, but he was killed in an accident on the way.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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