Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Monday, September 13, 2004

American Jewish History

America is celebrating 350 years of Jewish history.

They were only "23 souls, big and small," exhausted after surviving storms and pirates on the high seas.Those five words in an early Dutch document describe America's first Jews, who had fled persecution in Brazil. They were captured by buccaneers in the Caribbean before a French ship, the St. Catherine, rescued them and brought them to what is now New York.The exact day the ship docked is unclear, but the document dated Sept. 7, 1654, mentions the 23 men, women and children who stepped off the St. Catherine, starting Jewish history in America.(More)

An undated portrait of poet Emma Lazarus. Lazarus, who penned the words on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor huddled masses yearning to be free..." prayed at Shearith Israel, the first synagogue in North America. Shearith Israel consecrated its first synagogue in 1730 on the site of an old mill in what today is lower Manhattan in New York. The small Mill Street synagogue was for years North America's sole Jewish house of worship. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Shearith Israel)


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