History of the Jews in New York

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The first Jewish settlement in what became the United States was in Dutch New Amsterdam, which is now known as New York City. The first significant group of Jews to come to New York, then the colony New Amsterdam, came in September 1654 as refugees from Recife, Brazil. Portugal had just conquered Brazil from the Netherlands and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews there promptly fled. Most went to Amsterdam in the Netherlands but 23 headed for New Amsterdam instead. They were greeted by some Ashkenazi Jews who had preceded them by just a few weeks, and by governor Peter Stuyvesant who was at first unwilling to accept them. Jewish stockholders in the Dutch West India Company convinced the company to pressure the governor into accepting the arrivals, but the latter still imposed numerous restrictions and taxes on his Jewish subjects. Eventually, many of these Jews left.[1]

As of 2012, New York has a Jewish population of 2,000,000, 10% of the state.[2] In 1899, there were 400,000 Jews in New York.[2]

Lower East Side, New York City

New York Jews in the 1800s[edit]

As the city continued to grow, so did the Jewish population. In 1848 German Jews in New York established Bnai Brith, the first major secular organization.

Between the 1830s and 1880s, a growing number of middle class German Jews escaping from discrimination arrived in New York, seeking fame and fortune.

Not all Jews led decadent lifestyles however. The less-fortunate began to make the Lower East Side their own district as an influx of Jews reached the city between the 1870s and early 1900s.[3]

American Jews and the Civil War[edit]

Before the Civil War, Jews were not very split about abolition. They either stayed silent or opposed it. When the war started however, Jews fought on both sides, of about 7,000 who fought for the Union and about 1,500 for the Confederacy.[3] After the Civil War, New York Jews were more religiously split with a Reform movement rising in popularity.[4]

The Great Wave[edit]

After 1880 a significant number of Jewish immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe which included Russia, Poland, Hapsburg Galicia, and Romania, bringing nearly 2.5 million people into New York. This new mix of cultures changed what was a middle-class, acculturated, politically conservative community to a working-class, Yiddish-speaking group with a varied mix of ideologies including socialism, Zionism, and religious orthodoxy. The population of Jews eventually hit over one million by the 1900s and crowded into Jewish neighborhoods.[5]

Reasons for Leaving[edit]

The Jews of Central and Eastern Europe faced economic hardship, persecution, and social and political changes in the 1800s through the early 1900s, causing them to flee to the United States.[6] In Russia, there were waves of pogroms between 1881 and 1921.[3]



The bagel was originally a Jewish food until it became so popular in New York that it is now a worldwide export. Other popular Jewish foods found in New York include the knish and the bialystoker roll.[3]


Numerous Jewish actors and playwrights have influenced the theater world. Notable examples include Tony Curtis, Stephen Sondheim, and Barbra Streisand.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peck, Abraham J. "Jewish New York: The Early Years". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Jewish Population in the United States, by State". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Barnes, Ian (2014-01-09). "The Historical Atlas of the American Revolution". doi:10.4324/9780203949856.
  4. ^ Moore, Deborah. "In New York's History, A Cautionary Tale Of Judaism's Future". advance.lexis.com. Archived from the original on |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help). Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  5. ^ Raphael, Marc Lee (2008-01-31). The Columbia History of Jews and Judaism in America. New York Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231507066.
  6. ^ Irving, Berlin,; Hannah, Arendt,; Albert, Einstein,; Emma, Lazarus,; Albert, Potter,; Solomon, Smulewitz,; Leo, Rosenberg,; M., Rubinstein,; Charles, Chambers, (2004-09-09). "A Century of Immigration, 1820-1924 - From Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America | Exhibitions (Library of Congress)". www.loc.gov. Retrieved 2018-10-25.