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Jews Around the World
American Jews

    Jews have made an important contribution to the history and culture of America from the time of Columbus till today.

    The first group of Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish settlers arrived in New Amsterdam in September 1654, following their escape from the onslaught of the Inquisition in Brazil. But, they did not receive a warm welcome. Peter Stuyvesant tried to refuse haven to the penniless refugees, and protested. Fortunately, he was overruled thanks to the influence of some people.

    Probably 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.

    Jews sailed with Columbus and were burned at the stake in Mexico and Peru. Jews explored Iowa with LaSalle and surveyed the Northwest Territories with Washington. The Jews traded with Indians, fought in the Revolution and brought the Liberty Bell from England. Jews defended the American nation in the War of 1812.

    Early Jewish Americans explored, wrote poetry, created industries, formed congregations. In the War Between the States some of them served in Northern armies, some in the armies of the South. Jews became Legislators, Governors, judges, artists, businessmen, soldiers and scientists. They helped build the country.

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