By Talia Lavin
The first recorded Jewish resident of North America arrived in 1585. His name was Joachim Gans, and he was a metallurgist from Prague, recruited by Sir Walter Raleigh to accompany would-be colonists to what would become Virginia. But the Roanoke colony was short-lived, and Gans soon departed, leaving behind a few lumps of copper and a goldsmith’s crucible for future archaeologists to discover.
For centuries after Gans’s arrival, the Jewish presence in the New World was small but consistent. Small Jewish communities sprang up in the colonies throughout the Eastern Seaboard, principally consisting of Sephardic Jews migrating from Brazil, Spain and Portugal. The first formal Jewish school in the colonies was established in 1755, according to the American Jewish Archives. As the historian Leonard Dinnerstein put it, these small communities were “dots in a Protestant landscape.” But they were here, before the country was a country; the oldest synagogue in North America that still stands is the Touro Synagogue, in Newport, R.I., built 13 years before the United States declared its independence. In its modest sanctuary, neoclassical columns hold up a mezzanine adorned with large, arched windows, which wash the pulpit in light.
Nearly 300 years after the construction of the Touro Synagogue, the president of the United States, in between heckling Denmark and venting his ire at the “Fake News LameStream Media,” took time this week to make extremely clear that American Jews owe their allegiance to another country. On Tuesday, President Trump announced that the three-quarters of American Jews who routinely vote for the Democratic Party either have “a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” The next morning, the president approvingly quoted an appearance on the right-wing One America News Network by Newsmax radio host and virulently racist conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root.
Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.