Jews in America

GBP £25.00



ISBN: 978-1-904832-22-5

160 Pages

250 x 220 mm (8 ½ x 10 in)

100 colour and 10 b&w illustrations

In association with The New York Public Library

October 2012


From Spain during the Inquisition to Brazilian sugar plantations, from Amsterdam’s Portuguese synagogue to the fabled Yiddish theatres of New York’s Lower East side, Jews in America ranges widely, both historically and geographically, offering a feast abounding in incident and character.

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This richly illustrated book tells the fascinating story of the Jewish presence in America, from the earliest expeditions to the New World and the arrival in 1654 of the first group of Jews in the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (New York). Jonathan D. Sarna’s introduction traces pivotal changes in American Jewish life beginning in the colonial era.

The volume draws from The New York Public Library’s remarkable holdings of American Judaica and other key collections, featuring rare books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, maps, documents, and posters. The stories are brought to life with over 100 items, including the gorgeous Polyglot Psalter published in Genoa in 1516, a colour postcard of the Hebrew Confederate Soldiers Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, and Columbus’s famous letter to Santangel (Barcelona, 1493) in its only known surviving complete copy.

Documents also throw light on the once popular notion that the native population of the Americas represented the Ten Lost Tribes of ancient Israel, a seemingly bizarre theory that exercised many of the best minds of the seventeenth century.

Author biographies

Stephen D. Corrsin manages the development of The New York Public Library’s collections devoted to Jewish history, literature, and culture, from ancient religious texts to early 20th-century Yiddish theatre posters to Jewish cookbooks. He has published extensively in East European Jewish history, including Warsaw Before the First World War: Poles and Jews in the Third City of the Russian Empire.

Jonathan D. Sarna is Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and Chief Historian, National Museum of American Jewish History.

Table of contents

  1. Preface
  2. Introduction
  3. Discovery
  4. New Christians, Conversos, and the Inquisition: The Dutch and the Portuguese in Brazil, Suriname, and the Caribbean
  5. Arriving in New Amsterdam—and then, New York
  6. Jewish Indians, Puritans and Quakers, the Christian Millennium, and the Hope of Israel
  7. Communities and Constitutions in Colonial North America
  8. The Long Nineteenth Century of the Jews in America
    The Civil War 1861–65
    Religious Developments
    Yiddish Popular Culture: Literature, Theater, and the Press
  9. The Dorot Jewish Division of The New York Public Library
  10. Further Reading
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Illustration Credits
  13. Index