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Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center at the US Naval Academy

I enjoy visiting Annapolis MD whenever I’m in the area.  Over 300 years old, the city is the Maryland State Capital and hosts the third-oldest college in the US (St. John’s College, founded in 1696 as King William’s School).

US Naval Academy entrance

US Naval Academy entrance

On this particular visit to the US Naval Academy I went to the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center.  Commodore Levy (1792-1862) was a hero of the War of 1812.  Though not the first Jew in the US Navy, he who was among the first Jewish career Naval officers.  Levy endured severe anti-Semitism while he maintained a deep religious faith during his 50 years in the Navy.  In fact he was court-martialed and exonerated six times!  It was Levy who abolished the practice of flogging in the Navy, and Levy championed the concept of choosing officers based on their ability rather than their religion, ethnicity or social rank.

The Commodore Levy Center cost about $8M for a 35,000 square foot facility that was paid for mostly by donations.  The entrance to the facility, which opened in 2005, repeats the center bay architecture of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  This is a nod to the fact that it was Commodore Levy’s nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy who purchased Monticello after the Civil War and began restoration of that property after it was heavily abused throughout that war.  I’ll do more on Monticello in another essay, but I’ll include some photos of how Monticello looks today for comparison.

The entrance to Commodore Levy Center resembles Monticello.

The entrance to Commodore Levy Center resembles Monticello.

Monticello in winter

Monticello in winter

The Miller Chapel is located immediately to the right as you enter the building.  The simple yet effective architecture of this sanctuary gives a bright airy feeling with uncluttered features.  White panels near the ceiling remind me of a ship’s sails.  The ark is a column in a backlit alcove.  The main wall is of course Jerusalem stone.

Miller Chapel

Miller Chapel

Across from Miller Chapel is Stein Fellowship Hall.  Part museum and part Jewish library, this area offers a meeting space mixed with historical pieces on about two dozen Jews in the US Navy, from officers to swabbies, men and women.  For instance, the author Herman Wouk was an ensign at the Naval Academy in 1942.  One of the display items is a large silver menorah at the entrance.

Silver Menorah

Silver Menorah

From the second floor balcony you can see through the windows in the Monticello dome.

Windows in the Monticello dome

Windows in the Monticello dome

Here are a few links with related information:

Friends of the Jewish Chapel – https://www.fojcusna.org/index.html

At last, a Jewish chapel for the U.S. Naval Academy – http://www.jewishworldreview.com/1005/annapolis_chapel.php3

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Mark Bobb

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