First Essay

Submitted By madmatt21
Words: 2485
Pages: 10

Matthew Zebro
October 22, 2013
HIST 358

The period from around 1780 to 1820 was a difficult, turbulent time for Jews in the new United States, as well as for the country as whole. The Jews have been combating and running from anti-Semitism for quite some time, and this era is no different. The Jews faced challenges in the budding republic, from ruthless anti-Semitism and widespread distrust to the reformation of their very religion because of the new concepts of liberty that were generated by the American Revolution and the new influence of ideas of what citizenship and liberty now meant and ought to be. This phase transformed the way people thought about religion and what they sought from it. The reform changed what being Jewish meant to a Jew and what their community ought to be. When the vast amount of German Jews came to America searching for greater economic opportunity, this further added to the reform already underway in the country, sustaining the movement. Having to constantly fight anti-Semitism, the Jews were still able to adapt and change their religion. Jews for quite some time were considered a wandering people, unable to find acceptance wherever they went. They were able to find somewhat of a “safe haven” of moderate-toleration in Amsterdam after being run out of Portugal, it even “became the center of Jewish life in western Europe,” (Williams 369). The Dutch world, however, didn’t achieve “perfect equality” for the Jews, “but they did not expect it to either,” (Williams 370). What the Dutch empire did offer them was the right to exercise their religion, however only “in private households as not to challenge the public monopoly of the Dutch Reformed Church,” and it offered them some economic possibilities, although restricted, they were also not allowed to hold public office as well (Williams 370). However even with the limitations, they still enjoyed “remarkable privileges enjoyed by few Jews elsewhere in Europe,” (Williams 373). The Jews in return “invested in the Dutch India companies” and their Jewish community grew rapidly with little confrontation from the “burgomasters of the city” who recognized the “new trade relationships with Portugal and the Portuguese colonies” that the Jews of Portuguese descent offered to the Dutch, (Williams 371). The relationship between the Portuguese Jews and the Dutch was based on trade, and not religion, especially because Amsterdam was “the center of colonial trade in northern Europe,” at the time, (Williams 372). While the Jews enjoyed the best prosperity they had in all of Europe, it still wasn’t without threat. The Dutch Reformed clergy threatened the relationship the Jews had with the Dutch empire when they demanded “for discriminating regulations against the Jews,” (Williams 372). However, the main conflict in Dutch society wasn’t between the Christians and the Jews, but between Protestants and Catholics. This lead to the Jews being able to build Amsterdam’s first synagogue in 1612, however during construction the city council passed a measure “prohibiting anyone from the Portuguese Nation from living or worshipping in the building, this issue was resolved with the compromise being to transfer ownership to a Christian who in turn would rent the building to the Jews, (Williams 373). While the Jews enjoyed moderate tolerance in the Dutch Europe, they still faced challenges. They still faced social challenges from the Calvinist population who were not tolerant towards the Jews; they also faced economic restrictions and political restrictions. When they set sail for the New World, these challenges would change. When the Jews arrived in New Amsterdam, they found the level of tolerance to be quite different than in Amsterdam. New Amsterdam was different than Amsterdam, it was settled by “Dutch Reformed Calvinists from the rural provinces,” and their intolerance towards Jews was well spoken by Governor Peter Stuyvesant who thought that the settlement