Jews arrive in the New World

The first known Jew to arrive in America was Jacob Barsimson on August 22, 1654, and he was joined by twenty-three more Jews four months later, although most of them stayed in New Amsterdam only for a short time. Peter Stuyvesant, Governor of New Amsterdam, was not happy about having a Jewish population in the colonies, and he tried to make life as difficult for this new group as possible. They had been granted permission to settle in New Amsterdam by the West India company (no doubt influenced by Amsterdam’s wealthy Jews), but they had to petition for further rights. In 1655, they petitioned for trading and merchant rights, and later had to petition for enforcement of their rights to own homes and trade, and to pay only their fair share of taxes, because they were shouldering much more than their fair burden. Given their wealth and influence, they were generally successful at gaining these rights, although it happened slowly.

Artistic rendition of the arrival of Jews to New Amsterdam. Depicts a ship arriving at port, with wood-built buildings behind ocean waves and a cloudy sky.

Artistic rendition of the arrival of Jews to New Amsterdam, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.

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