August 23, 2007

Today in Jewish History - Elul 9

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In 1654, Jacob Barsimson became the first Jewish settler in New Amsterdam (New York), and a few months later a group of 23 Jews arrived from Brazil. At first, Governor Peter Stuyvesant denied Jews the right to engage in trade, own real estate, serve in the military, and conduct public religious services. Barsimson, an observant Jew, filed an appeal to the Dutch West India Company, and succeeded in gaining equal rights for Jews. In one incident, Barsimson was summoned to court on Shabbat and courageously refused to appear. In a landmark decision that extended the limits of religious freedom, the court did not hold him accountable. Barsimson's Jewish pride and pioneering spirit paved the way for generations of Jewish immigrants yet to come.