Anti-Semitism Leads Monroe to Rescind Appointment to Jew

(1813)


In 1813, President James Madison appointed journalist Mordecai Noah to be U.S. consul to Tunis. Noah wanted the job because he thought he might establish good relations with the Jewish community in North Africa. The Muslim rulers in Tunis, however, objected to having to deal with a Jew. The State Department consequently recalled Noah and though there were other reasons for the action, Madison explained it was necessary because of “the ascertained prejudice of the Turks against his Religion, and it having become public that he was a Jew.” This is the only instance in American history in which overt anti-Semitism played a role in the rescinding of a presidential appointment of a Jew. Of course, this does not count those instances where appointments of Jews have not been made in the first place because of the anticipation that they would be opposed by host nations (e.g., a Jew is unlikely to ever be appointed to a post in Saudi Arabia, though, on the other hand, an Ortodox Jew did serve as U.S. ambassador to Egypt).


Source: David G. Dalin, “At the Summit,” in L. Sandy Maisel and Ira Forman, Eds. Jews in American Politics. (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), p. 30.