Friday, November 03, 2006

The Wall Street Ghetto

Did you know there was once a Jewish ghetto in America? Me neither. The history is interesting.

350 years ago, in 1654, 23 Jews escaping from the Portuguese reconquista of Pernambuco - or eastern Brazil - from the Dutch, arrived on the French frigate St. Catherine in the New Amsterdam settlement in the colony of New Netherland. There they sought to settle. The Dutch had conquered Recife, but lost it a few years later to the Portuguese reconquista, leaving the 23 Jews adrift and stateless.

The Dutch governor of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, refused to admit the Jews and built a wall to temporarily ghettoize them, while he wrote to the Board of Investors of the Dutch West India Company to seek resolution on whether to permit the entry of Jews into America. The Dutch West India Company Board, on which several prominent Jews of Amsterdam sat, one year later ordered Stuyvesant to tear down that wall and let the Jews live with full rights to buy land, to trade, and to serve in the militia. By the way, the place where that ghetto wall stood became known as Wall Street.

From that moment in 1655, when Asher Levy won the right to serve in the militia and buy his own house, it became abundantly clear that this would be for us a new land, a new opportunity, a new home, and a radical new challenge.

We became integrated into the American religious mainstream. In 1776 Haim Solomon helped to finance the American Revolution. In 1730, Shearith Israel was established in New York City as the first synagogue in America. In 1790 president George Washington wrote his famous letter to the members of Touro Synagogue assuring them that their rights as a Jewish community in America were secure, and that their right to religious freedom was guaranteed by the United States government "which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."
Something else I didn't know:
A couple of years ago, at the West Point Jewish Chapel, there was a display about Haim Salomon and the Revolutionary War. He died penniless, having used all his resources to aid the newly formed and poorly supplied American "army".

This is a wonderful story sent to me by a friend: A Story about: George Washington and the first Jews in America. General Washington's financial advisor and assistant was a Jewish man by the name of Haim Salomon.

During the cold winter of Valley Forge when American soldiers were freezing and running out of food, it was Hyam who marshalled all the Jews in America and Europe to provide money in relief aid to these stranded American troops and turned the course of history.

Without this help, our "Army" would have perished before they could have defeated the British.

If you take a one dollar bill out of your pocket and look at the back at the Eagle, the stars above the Eagle's head are in the six point Star of David to honor Jews. If you turn the Eagle upside down you will see a configuration in the likeness of a Menorah....both at the insistence of George Washington who said we should never forget the Jewish people and what they have done in the interest of America.
Very interesting.

H/T Atlas Shrugs

Update: 04 "Nov '06 0255z

I actually looked at a dollar bill. The eagle's tail feathers could be a Chanukah menorah. However, the stars are five pointed above the eagle. It is possible this has been changed from the original design. I'll look into it.

I have looked into it. The five pointed stars are arranged into a Star of David.

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