The Jews in Colonial America

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About the Book

The first synagogue in colonial America was built in New York City in 1730 on land that was purchased for £100 plus a loaf of sugar and one pound of Bohea tea. The purchase of this land was especially noteworthy because until this time, the Jews had only been permitted to buy land for use as a cemetery. However, by the time the Revolutionary War began, the Jewish religious center had become fairly large. Early in their stay in New Amsterdam and New York, many Jews considered themselves to be transients. Therefore, they were not interested in voting, holding office or equal rights. However, as the 18th century came to a close, Jews were able to accumulate large estates, and they recognized that they needed citizenship.
After a brief overview of the Jews’ migrations around Europe, the West Indies and the North and South American continents, this book describes the hardships faced by the Jewish people, beginning with New Amsterdam and New York and continuing with discussions of their experiences in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New England, and in the South. Subsequent chapters discuss anti–Semitism, slavery and the Jews’ transformation from immigrant status to American citizen.

About the Author(s)

The late Oscar Reiss, was a retired physician and the author of Medicine and the American Revolution (1998) and Blacks in Colonial America (1997). He lived in San Diego, California.

Bibliographic Details

Oscar Reiss
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 239
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2004
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1730-8
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8414-0
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

“indefatigably researched…an abundance of data…descriptive detail…valuable”—Journal of American Ethnic History; “a superb resource for any student of its material—the who, when and how of the arrival and settlement of Jews in the colonies, the anti-Semitism they faced, their participation in the institution of slavery, their role in the Revolution and prior conflicts, and their integration into the society of time…fascinating information…the extensive notes and bibliography are a scholar’s dream”—Catholic Library World; “excellent recanting of how this small community grew and how it attained a share of the American pie is one that many will find fascinating…we are shown the richness of Jewish life in the early years of this nation…filled with interesting vignettes…a treasure trove for devotees of American and Jewish history…most interesting and timely”—Lettre Sepharade; “discusses Jews in the North American British colonies through U.S. independence…considers the middle colonies, New England and Canada, the South, slavery, anti-Semitism, the wars, and the change from immigrant to American citizen”—Reference & Research Book News.