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Newsletter "Heritage"

AJHS Joins Library of Congress, National Archives, AJA to Celebrate 350th Anniversary of American Jewry

2004 marks the 350th anniversary of the landing of 23 Jews in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now New York. While þeeing the Inquisition after the Portuguese conquered the Dutch colony in northern Brazil, this forlorn and bedraggled band of Jews set sail for Holland. Unfortunately, their ship, the Ste. Catherine, was attacked at sea and pillaged by pirates. The captain landed the ship in New Amsterdam, but Pieter Stuyvesant, the colony's governor-general, sought to expel the now-penniless Jewish passengers because they would be a burden to the colony's taxpayers.

The Jews appealed Stuyvesant's decision to his employer, the Dutch West India Company, whose directors ordered Stuyvesant to allow the Jews to remain on the condition that they not become a financial burden on the community. Historians have argued that this initial experience in New Amsterdam still shapes the American Jewish propensity for self-reliance and mutual philanthropic aid.

To mark the 350th anniversary of their landing, AJHS will join with the Library of Congress, the National Archives and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, which is located at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, in a series of scholarly events and projects such as an exhibition on American Jewish history at the Library of Congress comprised of the four institutions' key holdings; a scholars' conference to evaluate new findings in early American Jewish history; creation of a joint website of documents and information on American Jewish history, especially for the years prior to the Civil War; and an effort to recruit contributions of documentary materials in American Jewish history to all four institutions. Future issues of Heritage will keep you informed of the schedule of events.

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