Jews in Rhode Island in the 18th Century.

Essay by dubskiHigh School, 10th gradeA+, October 2003

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In the 18th century, the United States had a small but significant Jewish community. Some of those Jews settled in New Amsterdam (present-day New York City), but others, went to Rhode Island seeking freedom from persecution. They settled in the port-town of Newport and after some hardship, were finally able to be open with their Judaism. Their economic prosperity even enticed Jews form New York City to move there in 1740. The Jewish community in Newport was so prosperous that it was able to establish the Touro Synagogue in 1763, the oldest existing Jewish house of worship in the nation. The Jews of Newport, Rhode Island were able to achieve great economic and social prosperity only after being freed from oppression for the first time in the history of the Sephardic people.

By the 16th century a number of those Iberian's who crossed the Atlantic to the New World were Jews.

However the Jews of Spain and Portugal could not openly practice their Judaism even on the American continents. The first organized Jewish communities in the New World were created in a Dutch colony in a part of Brazil called Pernambuco. Those communities were created by descendents of those fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions (which began in 1480) which first pushed Sephardic Jews into the New World. But even in this relatively new place it was not always possible to practice their religion freely. In 1654 the Portuguese took Pernambuco and the Jews could not escape the rage of the inquisition so once again they were forced to flee.

Part of them left for North America, who's East coast was the arena for the fight between the French, English, Dutch, Spanish and even Swedish colonizers. The first Jewish community in the territory of the modern USA arose during...