August 28, 2007

Today in Jewish History - Elul 14

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In 1729, Congregation Shearith Israel laid a foundation stone in lower Manhattan for the first structure ever designed and built as a synagogue in continental North America. At the time, New York had the only Jewish community in the country; it would be some two decades later before organized Jewish settlement began in Philadelphia, Lancaster and Charleston. Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City from 1654 until 1825, having been founded by Brazilian Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin. Governor Peter Stuyvesant, known for his anti-Semitic views, had initially denied Jews the right to worship in a public gathering; these Jews fought for their rights and won permission. Today, Shearith Israel occupies a grand structure at 70th Street and Central Park West.