Virtual Tour
Abravanel, Don Isaac
Berg, Gertude (Molly Goldberg)
Berg, Moe
Berle, Milton
Berlin, Irving
Bernstein, Leonard
Brandeis, Louis D.
Cardozo, Benjamin
Columbus, Christopher
Einstein, Albert
Elion, Gertrude
Gershwin, George
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader
Gompers, Samuel
Goode, Alexander
Goodman, Benny
Gratz, Rebecca
Greenberg, Hank
Hillman, Sidney
Hoffman, Jeffrey
Houdini, Harry
Jefferson, Thomas
Karpeles, Leopold
Lamarr, Hedy
Lazarus, Emma
Lehman, Herbert H.
Levy, Asser
Levy, Uriah P.
Magnes, Judah L.
Meir, Golda
Miller, Arthur
Myerson, Bess
Noah, Mordecai E.
Ochs, Adolph
Pulitzer, Joseph
Resnik, Judith
Rose, Ernestine

Robert Rosenthal
Ross, Barney

Salk, Jonas
Salomon, Haym
Santangel, Luis de
Sarnoff, David
Schick, Bela
Seixas, Gershom M.
Singer, Isaac B.
Stern, Isaac
Straus, Isidor & Ida
Strauss, Levi
Streisand, Barbra
Szold, Henrietta
Torres, Luis de
Touro, Judah
Washington, George
Wiesel, Elie
Zacuto, Abraham


Jews have made important contributions to the history and culture of America from the time of Columbus. This virtual tour gives brief sketches of people, places and events that are recognized by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and have significantly influenced future generations.

Learn that it was Spanish Jewry, not Spanish jewelry, that paid for Columbus' voyage of discovery. Discover that one of the first rights fought for and won by Jews in America, was the right to bear arms in the local militia (Asser Levy). Read how the man who raised funds for the American Revolution died penniless (Haym Salomon). Meet women who were pioneers in education (Rebecca Gratz) and equal rights (Ernestine Rose).

Acquaint yourself with the leader of a nation (Golda Meir) and with a leading entertainer (Barbra Streisand). You will find the famous (Einstein and Houdini), as well as those whose names are not household words (Judah Magnes and Bela Schick). There are legends in sports (Hank Greenberg) and music (Benny Goodman). Plus much more -- like the Jewish heroes and heroines of the Titanic disaster (Isidor & Ida Straus and David Sarnoff) and to Thomas Jefferson's home of Monticello (Uriah P. Levy).

Walk through the virtual tour in chronological order, or just click on people, places, and events of interest.

Entries are illustrated by the limited edition commemorative medals that have been issued annually by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame. For availability, visit our Shop.

Medal by Paul Vincze (1986), commemorates 500th anniversary of Columbus' first audience with Queen Isabella.

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)

There has been much speculation over the centuries as to whether Christopher Columbus may have been Jewish or of Jewish descent. The Encyclopaedia Britannica indicates that he may have come from a Spanish-Jewish family settled in Genoa, Italy. But there is no question that it was his Spanish-Jewish friends who were instrumental in arranging for his meeting with the Spanish Monarchs in 1486 and who turned his dream into reality.

Luis de Santangel (?-1498)

Contrary to popular opinion, it was not Queen Isabella's jewelry, but Spanish Jewry that made Columbus' historical trip of discovery possible. Actually it was Luis de Santangel, whose grandfather had converted from Judaism to Christianity under pressure of Spanish persecutions, who lent nearly 5 million maravedis to pay for the voyage. In addition, Santangel's influence with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella was decisive in gaining their acceptance of Columbus' proposals. In recognition of his assistance, Santangel was the first to hear of the historic discoveries directly in a personal letter from Columbus. Showing his allegiance to his former co-religionists, Luis de Santangel made substantial contributions toward the hiring of ships that enabled them to leave when they were expelled en mass from Spain.

Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508)

Another of Columbus' stalwart friends was Don Isaac Abravanel, who had remained stalwart to his religion and who was one of the most distinguished biblical scholars, philosophers and statesmen of the period. He also helped to finance Columbus' voyage, although he was not there to greet the great explorer upon his return ... since Abravanel was also expelled from Spain, in spite of his high position in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Abraham Zacuto (1452-c.1515) 

Before the Expulsion, Abraham Zacuto was forced to leave his native Spain. He was later named Royal Mathematician to the Portuguese royal court. There, he improved the astrolabe (early navigational instrument) and prepared astronomical tables, greatly improving navigational accuracy on the high seas. A copy of Zacuto's astronomical tables, along with Columbus' personal annotations, is still preserved in Seville.

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