Sunday, January 27, 2008

The founding of the US Jewish community

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1654 About 150 Sephardic (Jews of Spanish-Portuguese extraction) families of Portuguese background began fleeing the city of Recife, Brazil, following an expulsion order decreed, on January 26, that gave them three months to quit the region. This decree had been issued under the Portuguese Inquisition, by the new Portuguese rulers of Recife, who the same month had taken the city from the Dutch.

Pictured: A depiction of a New Amsterdam street scene

On September 7, 23 of these refugees (four couples, two widows, and thirteen children) arrived in New Netherland (New York) on the Ste. Catherine to establish, against the wishes of local merchants and the local Dutch Reformed Church, the first community of Jews in that place, which was a colony run by the Dutch West India Company. Jacob Barsimson was the first Jew to settle in New Amsterdam, having disembarked from the Peartree on August 22, possibly sent ahead by the Recife Jews as an advance scout.

Peter Stuyvesant, Director General of all Dutch possessions in North America, motioned to eject the Jewish newcomers but the Company (many of the shareholders themselves being Jewish) unequivocally refused Stuyvesant's petition, which read in part:

The Jews who have arrived would nearly all like to remain here, but learning that they (with their customary usury and deceitful trading with the Christians) were very repugnant to the inferior magistrates, as also to the people having the most affection for you; the Deaconry also fearing that owing to their present indigence they might become a charge in the coming winter, we have, for the benefit of this weak and newly developing place and the land in general, deemed it useful to require them in a friendly way to depart ...

The immigrants settled in the colony and soon formed the Congregation Shearith Israel, although the first synagogue was not built until 1730 ...

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