Early ancestors
Washington Letter
Jewish War Veteran Cemetary
Touro Synagogue
Original Shearith Israel Synangogue

This documentary explores the foundations of Jewish America and brings to light the story of the first wave of Jewish immigration that occurred more than 200 years before Ellis Island opened its doors to the world.

The period between 1654 and 1820 was a fertile time in Jewish history. Freedom of religious expression was allowed to take root in a land of budding economic opportunity, allowing a relatively small number of Jews to establish a remarkable presence along the Eastern Coast. From Savannah to Newport, with New Amsterdam (later to be renamed New York City) as the original point of entry, these tiny Jewish communities flourished in the new world while holding true to their religious beliefs and practices.

This program tells the story of the early American Jews, illuminating the triumphs and struggles they faced in balancing a religious and secular life — challenges that echo for American Jews today. The program features a mixture of expert commentary from leading Jewish historians in the field with personal and family stories from some of the direct descendants of the original colonists, lending some powerfully touching moments to the program.

Anita Moise Rosenfeld
Marion Mendel
Act of Religious Freedom
Shearith’s Little Synagogue
Neu Amsterdam
Map of Synagogue in NYC, 1779 Mikveh Israel Sheftell Sheftell