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B'siyata d'shmaya - With the help of Heaven


350 Years Since First Jew Landed in New York

By Shelomo Alfassa - August 22, 2004 / 5 Elul 5764

Originally published in Israel National News

Today, August 22, 2004, marks the 350th anniversary of the first Jewish immigrant to arrive in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, what is today New York City in the United States.

Having departed the Dutch colony of Recife, Brazil on July 8, 1654, Jacob Barsimon, a Sephardic Jew, became the first of many Jews who would organize what would later become the first Jewish community in the United States. Barsimon was employed by the Dutch East India Company, which was a trading and colonizing company for the Dutch.

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 occurrence. Barsimon, 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.

The International Society for Sephardic Progress, a Sephardic Jewish advocacy agency in the United States, called Jacob Barsimon "a man who risked his life traversing many countries in treacherous times because he refused to give up his religion."