JEWISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME • JEWISH MUSEUM IN CYBERSPACE
ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 
MEDALS RELATED TO RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY IN THE NEW WORLD

Religious persecution and bigotry were certainly not confined just to Europe. Indeed, early in the history of America, in some cases even before the colonies became the United States of America, several of the colonial states passed laws restricting the rights of individuals based on their religion. These strictures applied especially to Jews.

A small number of Jews, some of whom arrived in Boston in 1649, subsequently were given a stipend from the Puritans there on condition they leave and go back to Holland. A few years later, in 1654, fearing the return of the Inquisition when Portugal took over the Dutch colony in Recife, Brazil, a group of Dutch Jewish settlers arrived in New Amsterdam (a Dutch settlement established at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, now part of New York City).

However, the Governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, protested against the settlement of Jews, referring to them as "a deceitful race" and an "abominable religion" and "hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ," who worshiped "the feet of Mammon." Nevertheless, the Jewish settlers prevailed and, largely through the efforts of Asser Levy and some members of the Dutch West India Company, established the first, albeit small, Jewish community in North America (Congregation Shearith Israel), an event commemorated by the issuance of a number of medals. One, issued by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame, shows on the obverse the settlers arriving in New Amsterdam, with the figure of Asser Levy with quill and rifle (figure 35). The reverse legend, conveying their hope, reads, "They Can Rest Protected from Tyranny and Oppression Here."

  First Jewish Settlers  Medal    First Jewish Settlers in America,1654, Medal
Figure 35. First Jewish Settlers in America,1654, Medal

Alex Shagin, USA, 1999, Bronze struck medal, 49x47mm. (Image courtesy of Mel Wacks)

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