Brandeis, Louis D.
Lehman, Herbert H.
Levy, Uriah P.
Magnes, Judah L.
Santangel, Luis de
Seixas, Gershom M.
Singer, Isaac B.
Straus, Isidor & Ida
Torres, Luis de
by Alex Shagin, First Jews in America - Asser Levy (1999).
group of Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish settlers arrived in New
Amsterdam in September 1654, following their escape from the onslaught
of the Inquisition in Recife, Brazil. But they did not receive
a warm welcome in Dutch New Amsterdam. Peter Stuyvesant tried
to refuse haven to the penniless refugees, and protested to the
Dutch West India Company against the "deceitful race" who professed
an "abominable religion." Fortunately he was overruled thanks
to the influence of some of the directors of the Company who were
Asser Levy (?-1681)
initially denied the distinction of serving in the militia because
of the "disinclination and unwillingness of fellow-soldiers to
be on guard with said nation." Instead, Jews were required to
pay an insulting tax. Asser Levy, one of the first Jewish settlers,
fought and won the right to participate in the citizens' guards
in November 1655. After Levy also won the right to carry on trade
in the community, he built a prosperous business in real estate
and opened a Kosher butcher shop ... becoming the most prominent
New Yorker of the 17th century.
Synagogues (1730 & 1834) and Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851)
in deference to Stuyvesant, the Jews were not permitted to build
a synagogue. However, this situation changed after the surrender
of New Amsterdam to the British in 1664. While there is some evidence
that services were held in a private home as early as 1695, the
first congregation - Shearith Israel - was organized around 1706.
Circa 1730, they erected a small synagogue on Mill Lane. At this
time there were only about 30 Jewish households in New York City.
The synagogue was expanded and rededicated in 1818, when Mordecai
Manuel Noah delivered a speech in which he proclaimed that "Until
the Jews can recover their ancient rights and dominions, and take
their rank among the governments of the earth, this is their chosen
country; here they can rest with the persecuted from every clime,
protected from tyranny and oppression, and participating of equal
rights and immunities." When the congregation outgrew its Mill
Lane building, they moved uptown and built a new synagogue on
Crosby Street, which they occupied from 1834 to 1860. Historic
remnants of the first synagogue can still be seen in Shearith
Israel's current building on West 70th Street.
Here to Take First Jewish Settlers Quiz
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