Early American Jewry - Vol. 1

By Jacob Radar Marcus | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Background for the First American Jewish Community, 1654

TODAY, in the twentieth century, there are over four and one-half million Jews in the United States of America. In the first half of the seventeenth century there were probably not more than ten or twenty Jews who wandered in and out of the English, French, and Dutch colonies on the North American mainland or lived "underground" as Marranos in the Spanish provinces of Florida and New Mexico.

The total population of the European nationals along the Atlantic seaboard, from Florida to Maine, was probably well under 75,000 at the time that the first permapent Jewish community was established on Manhattan Island in 1654. Most of these were in the English settlements. It is not surprising, therefore, that there were very few Jews in the Protestant theocratic settlements of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay after the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620, that no Jews, as far as we know, were found in the Connecticut towns for a generation

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