The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World

October 28, 2016 - March 12, 2017

How did Jewish settlers come to inhabit—and change—the New World? Jews in colonial America and the young United States, while only a tiny fraction of the population, significantly negotiated the freedoms offered by the new nation and contributed to the flowering of American culture. The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World followed the trajectory of a people forced from their ancestral lands in Europe, as well as their homes in South America and the Caribbean, to their controversial arrival in New Amsterdam in 1654 to the unprecedented political freedoms they gained in early 19th-century New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. In this ground-breaking exhibition, rare portraits, drawings, maps, documents, and ritual objects illuminated how 18th- and 19th-century artists, writers, activists, and more adopted American ideals while struggling to remain distinct and socially cohesive amidst the birth of a new Jewish American tradition.

Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.



Media sponsor:

The exhibit is based primarily upon loans from the Princeton University Jewish American Collection, gift of Mr. Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953, and Mr. Leonard L. Milberg's personal collection. 

Lead support for this exhibition provided by Ellen and Leonard L. Milberg.

Additional support provided by
Steven and Shelley Einhorn
Stacy, Jason, Noah and Talia Helfstein
Helen and Robert Appel
David Dangoor/American Sephardi Federation
Barbara K. and Ira A. Lipman
Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr./
George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom
Jack and Susan Rudin
Pam and Scott Schafler
Jeffrey A. Schoenfeld
Laurie and Sy Sternberg
Norman S. Benzaquen
David Berg Foundation
Michele and Martin Cohen
Susan and Greg Danilow
Lori and Mark Fife
Mary Ann Fribourg
Ruth and Sid Lapidus
The Lerner Foundation
Martin Lewis and Diane Brandt
Cheryl and Glen Lewy
Ed and Sandy Meyer
Nancy and Morris W. Offit
Daryl and Steven Roth
Ann and Andrew Tisch
Mr. & Mrs. Peter L. Malkin
John and Jennifer Monsky
Leon and Toby Cooperman
Biddelman-Bascom Family Charitable Fund
Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation, Inc.The New-York Historical Society is grateful to the Government of Mexico, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, and the Consulate General of Mexico in New York, for the loan of Luis de Carvajal's manuscripts.


Creative: Tronvig Group