Disc 6 – The First Jews

Only in America: The Story of American Jews

Disc 6 – The First Jews

This program looks back to the origins of Jewish life in America: the first 23 who came on a ship from Recife Brazil, refugees from the Portuguese who had just re-conquered the colony from the Dutch.

Jews fought in and financed the American Revolution.

The ancestors of most American Jews came to America in the wave at the end of the 19th century, but some can trace their origins back to Colonial times, like Ambassador John Loeb, Jr., whose ancestor came to Charleston, South Carolina, from England in 1699. Jews were just one of many religious groups trying to find a foothold in the new United States, which included Huguenots, Quakers and Catholics. George Washington’s moving speech to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, one of the most important documents in American Jewish history, is read by John Lithgow, assuring them of their “inherent natural rights” to practice their religion in the new nation.

The hour also includes an extensive discussion of the crucial role of the Constitution and the First Amendment, with its prohibition of an established church, to the eventual success of American Jews.

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