American Jewish History

1492 Luis de Torres, a Spanish converso, accompanied Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to America.
1654 Twenty-three Jews from Brazil land in New Amsterdam, establishing the first Jewish community in North America.
1658 Jews settle in Newport, Rhode Island.
1678 South Carolina Governor John Archdale uses a Jewish interpreter to interrogate Indian prisoners captured in Florida. Jews in Rhode Island purchase land for cemetery.
1697 Four Jews become citizens of the English colony of South Carolina.
1730 Sephardic Congregation Shearith Israel establishes a synagogue in New York.
1733 41 Jews from London arrive in Savannah and establish the first Jewish community in the South.
1735 Savannah dedicates its synagogue, Mickveh Israel, and a cemetery.
1740 Act of Parliament enables Jews in all the English colonies to become citizens. Congregation Mikveh Israel established in Philadelphia.
1749 Congregation Beth Elohim formed in Charleston, South Carolina.
1763 Congregation Jeshuat Israel dedicates a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. Later it is named Touro Synagogue.
1776 Francis Salvador of South Carolina dies fighting for the American cause as Revolutionary War begins. British occupy New York. Many Jews leave in support of the colonies.
1782 Haym Salomon provides financial assistance to the American Revolution.
1790 Letters of congratulations sent from the six Jewish congregations in the United States to George Washington on his election as our first president.
1794 Charleston, South Carolina has the largest Jewish population in the United States. Congregation Beth Elohim of Charleston dedicates its synagogue, which will become the first Reform congregation in U.S.
1820 Jewish population estimated at 3,000.
1826 Maryland legislation permits Jews to hold public office and to practice law.
1833 Monticello, the estate of Thomas Jefferson, is purchased by Uriah P. Levy, first Jewish commodore in the U.S.Navy. Levy saves Monticello for the American people.
1840 Jewish population in the United States estimated at 15,000.
1843 B'nai Brith organized.
1850 Ernestine Rose, daughter of a rabbi, helps organize the first National Women's Rights Convention. Levi Strauss opens dry-goods business in Sacramento, California.
1860 Jewish population estimated at 200,000.
1862 U.S. Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana serves as Attorney General, Secretary of War, and later Secretary of State for the Confederacy. He is a trusted advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
1863 President Lincoln orders General Ulysses Grant to withdraw his order expelling Jews from Tennessee.
1871 First Yiddish and Hebrew newspaper in America is published.
1880 Jewish population estimated at 230,000.
1883 Emma Lazarus writes the poem that will be placed on pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
1891Philanthropist Baron Maurice DeHirsch establishes fund to help settle Jewish immigrants throughout the U.S.
1892 Ellis Island Immigration Station opens (closes 1954). American Jewish Historical Society established.
1893 National Council of Jewish Women founded in Chicago.
1895 National Jewish Federation movement begins.
1897 Jewish Daily Forward, a Yiddish newspaper, established.
1900 Jewish population estimated at 1,000,000.
1907 Rabbi Stephen S. Wise begins career as a Zionist. Louis Mayer and other Jewish immigrants begin the motion picture industry.
1912 Zionist organization Hadassah founded by Henrietta Szold.
1913 Trial and lynching of Leo Frank in Atlanta leads to founding of Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. Henryn Morgenthau appointed ambassador to Turkey.
1916 Louis D. Brandeis becomes the first Jewish Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
1917 Jewish Welfare Board organized.
1924 National Origins Act goes into effect, placing restrictive quotas on immigration into the U.S.
1926 Synagogue Council of America, representing Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish movements in the U.S., founded.
1933 Albert Einstein arrives in the U.S. as a refugee from Nazi oppression.
1941 America enters World War II on December 7th after Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Approximately 550,000 Jews will serve in the Armed Forces; over 300 chaplains will serve.
1947 Jewish population in the U.S. estimated at 5,000,000 (3.66% of total). Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island designated a National Shrine.
1948 Brandeis University, the first non-sectarian Jewish-sponsored university, is founded.
1972 Hebrew Union College ordains Sally J. Priesand as the first woman rabbi.
1978 Renowned Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer receives Nobel Prize for Literature.
1983 Reform movement passes resolution of patrilineal descent.
1985 Conservative movement ordains Jewish women.
1987 Mobilization for Soviet Jewish emigration results in Operation Exodus (to Israel) and Passage to Freedom (to United States); Jonathan Pollard convicted of selling U.S. classified documents to Israel.
1992 U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum opens on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
1994 Steven Spielberg awarded Oscar for Schindler's List, a film depicting the Holocaust.