Although many of the early Jews settled in New York, by 1658, some, also seeking religious liberty, had arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, establishing a Jewish community there. Others later settled in the colony of South Carolina. South Carolina was one of the most progressive of the original colonies, having as its charter, drawn up by John Locke in 1669, provisions which granted liberty of conscience to all settlers, expressly noting "Jews, heathens, and dissenters". By 1800 South Carolina had the largest Jewish population of any in the United States, mainly Sephardic Jews who had emigrated from Portugal and Spain.

Even though Jews were welcomed in some states in the newly-formed United States of America, there was still significant intolerance toward them. In 1815, Secretary of State, James Monroe removed Mordecai Manuel Noah, the first Jew to have diplomatic status, from his position as US Consul in Tunis because he was Jewish; stating that, "the religion which you profess [is] an obstacle to the exercise of your consular functions." Noah protested this decision and in the process received backing from John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who wrote letters supporting the separation of church and state and tolerance toward Jews.The Mordecai Manuel Noah medal (figure 36A) was issued by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame.

Mordecai Manuel Medal  Mordecai Manuel Noah Medal
Figure 36A. Mordecai Manuel Noah Medal

Eugene Daub, USA, 2012, Bronze struck medal, 49x47mm. (Image courtesy of Mel Wacks)

During the Civil War, while some 7,000 Jews were serving as soldiers for the North, General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order reading, “The Jews as a class, violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department, and also Departmental orders, are hereby expelled from the Department.” One month later, President Lincoln revoked the order (Johnson).

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