The 1st Jewish settlers in New York


The Jewish arrival in New Amsterdam of September 1654 was the first organized Jewish migration to North America. It comprised 23 Sephardi Jews, refugees "big and little" of families fleeing persecution by the Portuguese Inquisition after the conquest of Dutch Brazil. It is widely commemorated as the starting point of New York Jewish and Jewish-American history.When the Portuguese defeated the Dutch for control of Recife, and brought with them the Inquisition, the Jews of that area left. In February, 1654 23 Sephardic Jews left for French Martinique where they could practice their religion freely. By the time they arrived in New Amsterdam on September 4th, they had survived a harrowing journey which included storms, shipwrecks, and imprisonment. Since it was difficult for them to return to Europe they asked Peter Stuyvesant if they could remain. He didn't really want them to stay, so he wrote to his directors at the Dutch West India Company asking for permission to force them to leave. The Company was having trouble attracting settlers to the colony and were delighted to have the additional residents. So, he devised multiple rules that they had to comply with including a requirement that they had to worship privately and pay taxes for the military. They were given land for a cemetery in 1656 which still exists in Chinatown. Almost all of the original group of Jews eventually left and returned to Amsterdam when the British took over the colony.

Arrived, Aug, 1654

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