marks the 350th anniversary of the first Jewish immigrant to
arrive in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in what is today New
22, 2004 will mark
the 350th anniversary of the first Jewish immigrant to arrive in
the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in what is today New York City.
The International Society for Sephardic Progress would
like to honor the memory of this fellow Sephardic Jew, a pioneer.
a summer day in 1654, a wooden hull ship named the Peartree
docked in the port of New Amsterdam, in a slip which sits in lower
Manhattan where Wall Street is today. Having departed the Dutch
colony of Recife, Brazil on July 8, Jacob Barsimon, a Sephardic
Jew, stepped on solid ground that day and became the first of
many Jews who would organize what would later become the first
Jewish community in the United States. Although it's been said
Barsimon might have been sent by the Jewish community in Recife
to start a Jewish colony, the evidence is not clear. What is known,
is that Barsimon was employed by the Dutch East India Company,
which was a trading and colonizing company for the Dutch.
Jews had been scattered throughout Europe and Asia since they
were expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century because
of the Inquisition. The choice was either renounce Judaism and
accept Christianity, or be expelled. However, while Spain allowed
most Jews to leave, Portugal later made it illegal to depart.
Still, Jews such as Barsimon found a way to escape, fleeing for
the safety of Amsterdam, as well as Dutch Brazil; others fled
to the Turkish Ottoman Empire. In January of 1654, Holland lost
Brazil to the Portuguese navy, leaving the Jews to once again
uproot and find a new home. At the time, the Inquisition in Mexico,
Peru, Portugal, Spain and other countries was furiously pursuing
Jews; trials, resulting in burnings at the stake, were a frequent
Alfassa, executive director of the ISFSP stated:
was a true survivor, a hero we don't know much about, but yet
can honor him for what he stood for. The man was able to free
himself from the grasp of the Portuguese Inquistion, refusing
to relinquish his Judaism, in a time and place where many simply
gave up and converted."
twenty-three Jews who came the following month, and more who came
the following year, started the first Jewish congregation known
as Shearith Israel (Remnant of Israel), a congregation
which is still in existence today. Although they faced some anti-Semitism
initially, the Dutch colony offered these refugees shelter, and
safe place to start a new life in safety.
this 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jewish immigrant
to New Amsterdam, the International Society for Sephardic Progress
would like to honor the memory of Jacob Barsimon, a man who
risked his life traversing many countries in treacherous times
because he refused to give up his religion. May the memory of
Jacob Barsimon be for a Blessing.
The International Society for Sephardic Progress (ISFSP) is
a Jewish agency developed to serve the Sephardic community--the
descendants of the Jews of historic Spain, Portugal, North Africa
and the Levant who share both common religious and cultural bonds.
Although based in the United States, the ISFSP is an advocacy
organization representing Sephardim internationally. The ISFSP
also functions to produce high quality Jewish educational projects
which will educate the public on the rich Sephardic Jewish communities,
past and present.
ISFSP is a
a non-profit organization.