Friday, October 31, 2014

How Religious Freedom Came to Jews in America

Nadene Goldfoot                                                            

Pilgrims sailed to the New World (America) in 1620 from Holland.  They were Puritan refugee Englishmen who had left England in pursuit of finding freedom to worship as they chose and not how the country of England had chosen for all its people.  They had traveled to Holland and found that their children were turning into little Dutchmen, which is not what they had hoped for, so they felt they had to leave.
"These Puritans viewed their emigration from England as a re-enactment of the Exodus.  They felt that England was like Egypt, the king was Pharaoh, the Atlantic Ocean was the Red Sea, and America was the land of Israel and later when they found the Indians, that they were like the ancient Canaanites.  These Puritans actually saw themselves as the new Israelites who had entered into a new covenant with G-d in a new Promised Land.   It must have helped them to survive their first harsh winter when at least half of them died.
It was John Robinson, Reverend, who sent his congregation over from Holland but he stayed, seeing off the last of the people, and then died there.  However, his son, Isaac came over.
Descendants of JOHN (Rev.) Robinson

1   JOHN (Rev.) Robinson b: Bet. 1575 - 1576 in Sturton Nottinghamshire, or Lincolnshire, England
.. +Bridget White b: 1579 in Sturton Nottinghamshire, England
. 2   John Robinson b: Bet. 1606 - 1609 in Norwich, Norfolk, England
. 2   Bridget Robinson b: 1608 in Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
. 2   Isaac Robinson b: Bet. 1610 - 1620 in Reusel-de Mierden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands, Leiden, Holland
..... They settled in New England.  Pilgrims are people who journey in alien lands;  or one who travels to a shrine or holy place as a devotee, one of the English colonists founding the first permanent settlement in New England at Plymouth in 1620. Today, "Robinson" is the 16th most popular surname in the United States.  Robinsons came from England at various times  in the history of this nation and settled for various reasons.

We don't call people living in the United States "Pilgrims" anymore.  We don't call them "Settlers" either.  Neither should Jews be continually called "Settlers" in Judea and Samaria or any other place in Israel. Their ancestors were from Judah and they had returned to their habitat.
Once they arrived from Russia, Romania, Lithuania, etc, and joined their brethren who had never left the land, they built villages that became towns and cities, just like the growth that occurred in the USA. Instead of finding Indians that eventually attacked the new Americans, these Jews found Arabs who were mostly Bedouins attacking them as they tried to grow crops and build homes.  Read "The Innocents Abroad"  by  Mark Twain who personally took a trip to "The Holy Land" starting on February 1, 1867.  The first group of Russian Jews to arrive in what is called the First Aliyah was after that in about 1880.  Twain describes what he found when he arrived there beautifully.  Read "The Settlers" by Meyer Levin to see what their life was like in arriving and struggling to make a home in Palestine, a land under the Ottoman Empire.  Then read From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters.

The Pilgrim who arrived on the Mayflower seeking religious freedom didn't know much about Jews since all Jews had been expelled from England in 1290 and were not allowed back in until 1655, well after the Pilgrims had sailed for America in 1620 and well after a fleet of ships sailed in 1630 for new chances of life.  All the Pilgrims knew was what they had read in their Old Testament.  They admired what they read and studied Hebrew.  They copied the holiday of Succot and turned it into Thanksgiving.
It was first celebrated in 1621, a year after the Mayflower landed and was first conceived as a day parallel to the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  It was to be a day of fasting, introspection and prayer.

 To them, Jews were evidently people long dead and existed only in their bible.  They didn't realize they probably had met some Sephardic Jews who lived in Holland and were businessmen.  Perhaps they didn't connect the Old Testament Jews and prophets with the New Testament Jews that has caused so many countries to dislike Jews.
                                        Shabbat Shalom means to have a peaceful Sabbath                      
Now, the Spanish disliked Jews for a long time for religious reasons being they were not Christians, and in 1492, the year Columbus sailed to find India and instead discovered America, an edict was issued in which ALL JEWS had to either convert to Catholicism or leave the country.  This was copied by other countries just like a domino affect.  First one, and then the other would issue such statements.

Jews who could not leave hid their religion and were referred to later as Marranos (today's Anusim).  Columbus's interpreter was Luis de Torres, a converted  "Marrano" Jew who was the 1st to set foot on American soil.  .  Marranos settled in Spanish and Portuguese colonies.

When Brazil was under Dutch rule from 1630 to 1654, the 1st Jewish communities were founded by native Marranos and immigrants from Holland.  Also, in 1654 in New Amsterdam, which became New York, more communities were founded.  23 Jewish refugees from Recife, Brazil arrived in New York in 1654. On September 22,  1654, Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of New York, or New Amsterdam as it was called then, tried to banish these Jews from his city. That attempt failed.
It was the first act of anti-Semitism in the new world and was written about by Samuel Oppenheim in "The Early History of the Jews in New York, 1654-1664" published in 1909.

 It was the directors of the West India Company in Amsterdam who rescinded Stuyvesant's order on April 26, 1655.  They told him that "we would like to have agreed to your wishes and request, that the new territories should not be further invaded by the people of the Jewish race, for we foresee from such immigration that the same difficulties which you fear, but after having further weighed and considered this matter, we observe that it would be unreasonable and unfair, especially because of the considerable loss sustained by the Jews in the taking of Brazil and also because of the large amount of capital which they have invested in shares of this company.  After many consultations, we have decided and resolved upon a certain petition made by the said Portuguese Jews, that they shall have permission to sail to and trade in New Netherland and shall not become a burden to the Company or the community, but be supported by their own nation.  You will govern yourself accordingly.

 So it turned out that the governor had tried to prevent the very people who had owned part of the company that put himself and others in business in New York.  Jews hadn't been allowed many professions in Europe and had become money lenders, so this time it paid off for them.  It was the foot in the door to the New World.  Other than that, these religious people looking for freedom for themselves hadn't thought about giving it to others.  Other Jews who were traders appeared along the Hudson River in New York shortly after 1660.  Merchants of Sephardi origin were found there throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

Jews'   numbers grew slowly in the USA and by 1812 there were only 400.  The Jews, now living in a land of religious freedom, were denied many civic rights and permission to engage in crafts.  It took time to gain these rights.  and the naturalization law only came about till 1715.
 In 1658 15 families came to Newport, Rhode Island and built the Touro Synagogue, named for their first rabbi, Isaac Touro.  They built the synagogue on December 2, 1763.
  At first Jews were not even allowed to erect a synagogue, the first being erected in 1693.  This was the Sephardi congregation of Shearith Israel in New York. The congregation was founded in 1654.   Then the Ashkenazi synagogue of B'nai Jeshurun was founded in 1825.

Resource: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Kike!--/Anti-Semitism in America  by Michael Selzer

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