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The Levys of Monticello
A Documentary Film by Steven Pressman

The Levys of Monticello
A Documentary Film by Steven Pressman

May 2, 2022, 7:00 – 8:15 PM CDT

JCC of Dallas – Zale Auditorium
7900 Northaven Rd, Dallas, TX 75230

Monticello, the longtime and cherished home of Thomas Jefferson, had fallen into a state of serious disrepair by the time of Jefferson’s death on July 4, 1826. Jefferson was heavily in debt when he died, and his heirs had no choice but to sell Monticello within a few years. The Levys of Monticello tells the astonishing, and little-known, story of a Jewish family that came to own Monticello beginning in the 1830s and lasting until the 1920s. Along with owning Monticello longer than Jefferson and his descendants, members of the Levy family also devoted themselves to the restoration and preservation of Jefferson’s iconic home. In the course of doing so, the family wound up saving the house from ruin on two separate occasions. The film focuses on the two principal owners of Monticello during the Levy years. Uriah Phillips Levy, who strongly admired Jefferson for his views on religious freedom, had a 50-year career in the United States Navy and rose to become the navy’s first Jewish commodore, while enduring persistent anti-Semitism throughout his career. Levy, like Jefferson, was also a slave owner – and was responsible for maintaining the bitter legacy of slavery at Monticello until the Civil War finally put an end to it. After Uriah Levy’s death, ownership of Monticello eventually passed to his nephew, Jefferson Monroe Levy, a wealthy New York businessman and stock speculator who also served two terms in the United States Congress. Like his uncle, Jefferson Levy also endured anti-Semitism, particularly when a woman named Maud Littleton mounted a national campaign in the early 1900s to wrest ownership of Monticello away from Levy in hopes of turning Monticello into a government-run shrine to Thomas Jefferson.While focusing on the story of the Levy family’s 89-year ownership and preservation of Monticello, The Levys of Monticello also tells a broader story about anti-Semitism that runs throughout the course of American history, right up to the present day. The film also addresses the pivotal role that enslaved people played at Monticello, during both Thomas Jefferson’s and
Uriah Levy’s years as owners.

Year: 2022
Runtime: 71 minutes
Language: English
Country: United States
Rating: NR
Director: Steven Pressman