July 3, 2015
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ
While the economy of Greece melts down in debt and the European Union struggles to choke down panic about the Euro, there is also some odd stuff going on relating to the US Treasury and our currency—only it’s not quite as serious a challenge as they are facing now in Europe. It turns out that our biggest American issue right now is that our Orthodox Jewish Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, decided that after almost 240 years of American history it’s high time for our currency to have a woman represented on a bill, and he has chosen to redesign the $10 bill to do just that.
In truth, we have had ill-fated versions of US coins with women’s images on them before. Remember the unfortunate debacle of the Susan B. Anthony coins that were supposed to supplant dollar bills long ago? And Sacajawea is on a dollar coin, too, although that also had problems with public acceptance and use. Unlike people in most countries, we Americans have a problem using any coins larger than a quarter, and we prefer, if we are going to spend cash, to use paper bills. And so Treasury Secretary Lew had decreed that we are going to change the image on one of the bills we actually do use, the $10 bill, to the image of a prominent American woman.