Disabilities were legal restrictions and limitations placed on Jews in the Middle Ages. They included provisions requiring Jews to wear specific and identifying clothing such as the Jewish hat and the yellow badge, restricting Jews to certain cities and towns or in certain parts of towns (ghettos), and forbidding Jews to enter certain trades (for example selling new clothes in medieval Sweden). Disabilities also included special taxes levied on Jews, exclusion from public life, restraints on the performance of religious ceremonies, and linguistic censorship. Some countries went even further and completely expelled Jews, for example England in 1290 (Jews were readmitted in 1655) and Spain in 1492 (readmitted in 1868).
The disabilities were lifted in the late 18th and the 19th century. In 1791, Revolutionary France was the first country to abolish them altogether, followed by Prussia in 1848, the United Kingdom in 1858 after an almost 30-year struggle championed by Isaac Lyon Goldsmid (Jewish Disabilities Bill), and the newly united Germany in 1871.
The first Jewish settlers in North America arrived in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1654; they were forbidden to hold public office, open a retail shop, or establish a synagogue. When the colony was seized by the British in 1664 Jewish rights remained unchanged, but by 1671 Asser Levy was the first Jew to serve on a jury in North America.
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