Table of Contents
I Mainland American Jewry
II Non-Mainland American Jewry
I Mainland American Jewry
The 23 exiles from Recife that sailed to The West Indies and then to The Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam, were robbed on the way by pirates. The penniless group arrived in New Amsterdam in September of 1654. Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of New Amsterdam, told them they had to leave. He allowed them to stay while he awaited instructions from Amsterdam. He was instructed that they be allowed to stay because the Jews of Recife had fought for Holland, and because The Dutch West India Company had many Jewish shareholders. This was "provided the poor among them shall not become a burden to the company or to the community, but be supported by their own nation".
Stuyvesant and his council did not favor these instructions. He denied The Jews the right to stand guard with the colony's other residents and forced them to pay a special tax. When 2 Jew, Jacob Barsimson and Asher Levy took legal action, this policy was abandoned. Other Jews soon filed legal petitions demanding the right to buy homes, to trade, and to enjoy full rights.
3 years after landing, The Jews were granted full citizenship. They still didn't have every civil right. They weren't allowed to build a synagogue and required to "exercise in all quietness their religion within their houses". They still had to petition the government when they faced restrictions in trade or professions.
In 1657, Asher Levy became the first Jew in New Amsterdam and in the entire North America to enjoy the full rights of citizenship. He purchased a plot of land on William Street which is now in the heart of the Wall Street financial district. He was also allowed to become one of its 6 licensed butchers.
When The British captured New Amsterdam and renamed it New York in 1664, Asher Levy expanded his business enterprises. He also bought a house on Mill Street which was used as the first synagogue, and became home to Congregation Shearit Israel, which had beed meeting in private homes. Mill Street Synagogue was erected in 1730. Shearit Israel to this day still follows Minhag Sfarad since the earliest American Jews were Sfardic. By 1750, however, half of the 300 Jews of New York were Ashkenazim from Central and Eastern Europe. One of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in The United States is The Chatham Square Cemetery which is also in New York and was founded in 1656.
During The 18th Century, a small amount of Jews came to America from Europe settling in Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah, and other cities along The East Coast. In Philadelphia, they founded Congregation Mikveh Israel, which follows Minhag Sfarad. Rhode Island was a favorite destination since it was founded as an outpost of religious freedom. Among the prominent Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, was Aaron Lopez, the son of an old Marrano family in Lisbon, who became a wealthy merchant shipper in The New World. Congregation Yeshuat Israel in Newport, known as The Touro Synagogue in honor of Isaac Touro, its first spiritual leader, is the oldest synagogue building remaining in The New World. It was supported for many years by Judah Touro.
By the time of The Revolutionary War, there were about 3,000 Jews in the British colonies. Many of them fought for the patriotic cause. Francis Salvador, a Jewish planter born in England, was chosen a member of the provincial congress in South Carolina in 1774. He died in 1776 in one of the first battles of the war. Benjamin Nones came from France to fight in the the war since he believed it represented the battle for freedeom and human rights. He was promoted to the rank of major and was later a legislator in the new country.
When The British occupied New York and Newport, supporters of the American cause were in danger of imprisonment. Minister of Shearit Israel, Gershom Mendes Seixas was such a patriot that he had to flee New York when the British troops landed. He took the Torah scrolls with him and re-established the congregation in Stratford, Connecticut, and then set up Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia. He was honored after the war in New York as a leading religious figure and took part in George Washington's Presidential inauguration. He also served as a trustee of Columbia College. Isaac Touro and many members of his synagogue fled from Newport when the British arrived. Aaron Lopez left his wealth and settled in a small town in Massachusetts until the patriot forces were victorious rather than collaborate with The British. Many Non-Jews arrived from Europe to help The Americans including Baron Johann de Kalb from Germany who died in action and commanded a unit of 400 men. So many of the men in his unit were Jews that it was sometimes called the Jewish regiment.
Most Canadian colonists stayed loyal to England, but a few of them sympathized with The Americans. A Canadian Jew from Montreal, Salisbury Franks, was arrested for making a remark about a statue of King George III and after he was released he joined The American Army.
Haym Salomon, a Jewish broker from Poland that came to New York in 1772, was imprisoned for supporting the revolutionary cause but managed to escape to Philadelphia. He worked there with Robert Morris who was the superintendent of finance. They extended loans and arranged credit to pay for the costs of the war.
II Non-Mainland American Jewry
Alaska has the smallest and most widely dispersed Jewish population out of all the 50 American states. More than half the Jews live in the two largest cities, Fairbanks and Anchorage. In The 1850's and 1860's, San Francisco Jews had developed extensive commericial ties with The Russian-American Company in Alaska and many Jewish fur traders regularly visited there. These Jewish fur traders played a major role in getting The United States to purchase Alaska from Russia in 1867. They later played a major role in running The Alaska Commercial Company that took over for The Russian-American Company. Soon after the purchase of Alaska, Jewish traders, miners, fur dealers, and merchants arrived from San Francisco to probe the new territory.
The Klondike Gold Rush in 1897 caused a number of Jewish fortune hunters and businessmen to immigrate to Alaska, and in 1904, they organized a short-lived congregation. They acquired a cemetery in Fairbanks in 1905, and is still the only Jewish cemetery in Alaska.
The first permanent Jewish settlers were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Goldstein who came to Juneau in 1885. Since then, Jews have been prominent in the political life of Alaska and they have served as mayors of many communities. Three Alaskan mountain peaks - Mount Ripinski, Mount Neuberger, and Mount Applebaum - are named for prominent Jews. Also, The Gerstle River in North East Alaska, is named for Lewis Gerstle, a San Francisco merchant whose Alaska Commerical Company popularlized the use of sealskins, developed steamboat transportation, and financed some of Alaska's first mining ventures. The Klondike gold discovery was touched off when of Gerstle's steamers docked in San Francisco with $750,000 in gold aboard. The Alaska Commerical Company's line of river boats between Nome and Dawson on The Yukon River carried thousands of goldseekers and tons of their supplies.
In 1904, Fairbanks' Jewish community was founded with the arrival of Robert Bloom, a Lithuanian Jew, who came from Ireland by way of The Klondike in 1898. He ran a general store from 1906 to 1941. He was also a leader of The Fairbanks Jewish Community for nearly half a century. From 1904 to 1910, there were enough Jews in Fairbanks to hold High Holiday services if not a minyan for Shabbat. They had a Torah and formally organized as Congregation Bikkur Cholim in 1908. The number of Jews in Fairbanks dwindled between 1910 and World War II.
Before 1940, Alaska had barely more than 100 Jews and no organized Jewish community of religious life to serve the handful of merchants, government employees, engineers, canners, fishermen, and scientists. The Jewish military chaplpains who arrived in 1941 during World War II were the first rabbis to officiate in Alaska. The permanent civilian Jewish community grew out of The Fairbanks and Anchorage Armed Services Committee when discharged servicemen, as well as homsteaders and govenment personnel, began coming in substantial numbers.
When Alaska became the 49th American state, Ernest Gruening, a former territorial governor, was elected one of its first two United States senators. In 1964, Jay A. Rabinowitz was named to The Alaska Supreme Court.
Jews in the military still outnumbered civilian Jews in 1960, but the military numbers dwindled with the suspension of the draft in The Early 1970's. The chaplaincy closed. The Jewish community began to change as a civilian and more permanent population grew.
Today, Anchorage is the main focus of Jewish Alaska. In 1991, The Lubavitch Jewish Center of Alaska was established with the arrival of Rabbi Yossi and Esty Greenberg in Anchorage as emissaries of The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Z"L, with the goal of fanning the flame of Judaism in "The Last Frontier”. Rabbi Greenberg serves as the Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Ohr, the only Orthodox congregation in the state of Alaska. Today, the Lubavitch Center has expanded to three Anchorage locations and is an established influence in the Jewish community through its synagogue, pre-school and kindergarten, library, day camps, adult education courses, and holiday functions.
The Lubavitch Center/Congregation Shomrei Ohr is located in Midtown Anchorage at 1210 East 26th Avenue near the intersection of Northern Lights Boulevard and LaTouche. The Gan Yeladim Pre-School is located at 3327 Fairbanks St., and the new mikveh is located at the site of the future synagogue at 1701 E 36th Avenue. The library and Judaica Gift Shop are located at 650 West International Airport Road, Suite 208.
The synagogue has a minyan every Shabbat Morning at 10:00 A.M.. On Friday Nights, there are services but without a minyan. Service time varies each week corresponding to the earliest Shabbat lighting (Plug HaMincha).
The Center offers full Shabbat meals featuring delicious, homemade dishes. Friday Night dinner is $35 per person; Shabbat lunch is $30 per person (Served at the synagogue immediately following services in conjunction with the community Shabbat lunch.); Seuda Shlishit is $20 per person. Children under 12 years of age are at half cost. Reservations for Shabbat meals are required two weeks in advance with pre-payment. Payments can be made by Visa, Master Card, or American Express.
Chabad of Alaska offers, on a strictly first come-first served basis, bed and breakfast accommodations. Lodging includes a private room and bathroom along with a continental breakfast each morning. In addition, a microwave, hot plate, and refrigerator are provided for your convenience. The Chabad Center is located in Midtown Anchorage, which is a convenient starting point for any Anchorage sightseeing activities. Room rental is $110.00 per night and requires payment at the time of reservation with Visa, Master Card, or American Express. Stays of over 7 nights are discounted to $90.00 per night.
There was a new kosher section in Carr’s on Diamond Boulevard and Seward Highway. They usually carried a variety of items including: Empire cold cuts, frankfurters, turkey, chicken, and chicken and turkey pot pies. They also carried Tillamook cheese, blintzes, cream cheese, smoked mozzarella cheese, puddings and snacks, cocktail bread, sprout bread, and other items. However, Safeway bought them out a couple of years ago and the first thing they got rid of was the the kosher section.
Recently, Chabad has established a new Kosher section in The Natural Pantry at The University Center on 3801 Old Seward Highway near the intersection of Old Seward and 36th Avenue. They usually carry a variety of items including: Empire cold cuts, frankfurters, turkey, chicken, chicken & turkey pot pies, Meal Mart frozen meals, J2 frozen Pizzas, Tillamook cheddar cheese, blintzes, cream cheese, smoked mozzarella cheese, puddings and snacks, frozen whole grain Pas Yisrael bread and other items. Frozen Unbaked Kineret brand Challah is sometimes available, and they do carry Kedem Grape Juice. In order to guarantee that the items you would like are in stock please call Vikki at The Natural Pantry at 907-770-1444 or fax at 770-1445.
In addition, Carr’s as well as the other large grocery stores (Safeway, Fred Meyer) carry the same variety of Kosher OU, OK, and CK foods, which you would be able to purchase in the large non-kosher supermarkets in The Lower 48 including bagels, bread, tuna, sardines, pickles, potato chips, etc.... Manischewitz products, such as matza, gefilte fish, chicken soup, etc..., for Friday Night dinners are also available. Kosher wine can be purchased at Carr’s Oaken Keg liquor stores. There are no kosher delis, restaurants, or other places to purchase hot kosher food in Alaska. Outside of Anchorage, a smaller selection of the same kosher products is available. There is a very limited selection of OUD and OKD dairy products available. There is no Chalav Yisrael.
Due to The Midnight Sun in Alaska, candle lighting times can be quite late. If you are planning on visiting Alaska, it is advisable to check the exact candle lighting times for the dates of your visit.
The mikveh that was in place for 25 years on Elmendorf Air Force Base was eliminated by The Air Force during base reconstruction. There was then no mikveh available in Alaska. The closest mikveh was a 3 ˝ hour flight to Seattle. There was an emergency mikveh campaign to raise funds to build a mikveh on the community's new property purchase in town several blocks from the synagogue. The new mikveh is now open. It is located at 1701 E 36th Avenue, a twenty minute walk from the synagogue and a 5 minute walk from The Residence Inn and Golden Lion. Mikveh appointments must be made at least two days in advance with Esty Greenberg by calling (907) 279-1200. This mikveh was built with the generosity of both local and out of town donors, and while it is recommended to make a contribution of at least double chai ($36.00), any contribution that can be made towards the facility's maintenance or settling of its remaining mortgage is appreciated.
This is a picture of the new mikveh.
There are various Alaskan Jewish publications available at The Center. Several local Jewish families run tourist oriented businesses in the downtown area including David Green Furs at 130 West Fourth Avenue and Polar Bear Gifts at 442 West Fifth Avenue.
The first mention of Jews in Hawaii was in 1798, when a sailor on board the whaler, recorded that the Hawaiian king came aboard and brought "a Jew cook with him". Jewish traders from England and Germany arrived in Hawaii in The 1840's. Jews from California arrived at the end of The 1800's. In 1901, The Hebrew Benevolent Society and a Jewish cemetary were established. In 1938, the Honolulu Jewish community was formed. Since 1951, synagogues have been established including Chabad syngagogues. There is also a constant arrival of Jewish immigrants from the American mainland.
Before The Spanish-American War there were virtually no Jews in Puerto Rico. The Jews that were there then were Conversos. When Puerto Rico became part of The United States after the war, Jewish entrepreneurs came from the mainland United States. After the rise of Nazism, Jews fled to Puerto Rico. The Jewish Community Center was founded in 1942. In the 1950's and 1960's, Jews immigrated from the mainland United States. Many Ashkenazic Jews, primarily of Polish and Russian ancestry came from Cuba fleeing from the Communist revolution. Immigration from Spain continues to this day and there are Spanish Jews today in San Juan usually involved in commercial ventures such as importing and trade. Many Jews from New York have retired in Puerto Rico. Typically, these Jews occupy the highest social, economic, and educational standing. Today most Puerto Rican Jews live in San Juan.
The United States Virgin Islands
The first Jews came starting in 1655 from Recife, Suriname, Barbados, Holland and France. The growth of the Jewish population in the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix came because of the destruction of the Jewish community in the nearby Dutch island of St. Eustatius in 1781, which was attacked by The British for having aided The American Revolution. In 1796 the synagogue Berakha v'Shalom v'Gmilut Hassadim in St. Thomas was founded and it exists until the present day. By 1850, half the island's white population was Jewish, or about 400 people. The Danish and then American authorities made Jews governors of the islands. When The Panama Canal opened, most of the Jews left for Panama. By 1942, there were no more than 50 Jews. Since then more Jews have arrived from the American mainland.
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