Heres a revisionist tale to tell at your Jewish July 4th BBQ

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was not Jewish. Sure, Goldie Hawn, Kirk Douglas, Alan Greenspan and Bill Goldberg (a wrestling champ like Jacob) are Jewish. So is Madeleine Albright. And so were Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein and Benjamin Disraeli and Jesus. That's the good news.

But alas, fellow Jewish Americans, George Washington — what a jewel he would be in our crown — is not. We know this because no Jewish property holder would sit on a 400- acre real estate package in suburban Washington without calling up a developer to carve it up into house lots even once. Besides, whoever heard of a Jew with a mouth full of wooden teeth because he couldn't afford a date with his orthodontist?

So, I'm afraid our first president never attended a minion. But he was a believer when it came to religious freedom.

America — the new Zion — founded by those quirky Puritans has provided a flourishing home for Judaism. The pilgrims who preceded Washington, Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin envisioned their brave new world with all the sanctity of Jerusalem. They were a rare breed, with an affinity for Zion because they were "Old Testament believers." They were separatists who'd left the Church of England. And their basic idea was to introduce religion into every facet of their lives.

In a way, they were the Chassids of Christianity — without the joyfulness — as they prayed more than they played. They had more fun studying Leviticus than bobbing for apples.

In the dull old days when public schools taught American history instead of hot air ballooning, every high school freshman knew that those prim Puritans had a strong "Old Testament" core. Thomas Macauley, the 19th-century British historian, tells us that they "began to feel for the Old Testament a preference…which showed itself in all their sentiments and habits." They were not frivolous folks. These, then, were the forebears of the group of dead, white Caucasian males who signed the Declaration of Independence that epochal July 4, 1776.

Who would have thought that the proclamation of the Constitutional Congress on that hot summer day in Philadelphia would eventually affect the lost, wandering tribes of Israel. But it did. A little over a hundred years later, the dispossessed of Israel flocked to the new Zion. They knew a good thing when they saw it.

Our team missed the Mayflower by a couple of centuries. We also missed the Queen Mary. There were no deck chairs on the cattle boats that brought our ancestors to the New World of golden streets paved with dreams. They were stuffed in the hold like pickles in a jar and probably didn't spend the long crossing mourning what they left behind — the poverty, hunger, persecution that ruled the masses of Eastern Europe — Jew and non-Jew alike.

There's a deep ache in our hearts when we think of the Old World they left behind. A few decades later it was consumed in the ovens of the Holocaust. What would those martyrs — pious and profane alike cleansed by their sacrifice — say about America in 2000? What would they think to see our cars and homes and VCRs and full pantries? What would these cultural loners say to our integration within a warm, tolerant society? Who knows, they probably would have done the same.

So, there was this grim bloody world fast receding in the rear vision mirror of the Good Ship Hatikvah — steaming for the new Jerusalem on the Hudson where the only king was "Abie, the King of Corned Beef" on lower Hester Street.

They poured out of their boats into the sidewalks of New York, which they found to be of concrete, not gold. But concrete was better than the muck and mud of Polish villages. And sweatshop bosses had hearts as hard as the concrete sidewalks, but they couldn't kill you or take your daughters for pleasure and your sons for their army. The Charter of the New Jerusalem prevented that.

They could only fire you. And right around the corner was another who'd give you the same handful of silver that bought lots of bread and vegetables and even meat. There was too much work and not much leisure. But nobody starved. And if a family jammed up in a cheap flat and emptied all their silver in a single pile, eventually they could transform themselves into the nobility of this Brave New World.

Here, it only took money: money for goods, money for education. This was a game they knew how to play. Suffer now — prosper tomorrow. A bargain — a very small price compared to the fate of those they left behind.

Viva America!