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Sephardim & Ashkenazim in Savannah

Savannah is the third oldest Jewish community in North America. It was settled in 1733 by a shipload of forty-two Jews from London. By 1735, they had established a synagogue, Mickve Israel.

John Martin Bolzius, a Lutheran pastor in Savannah, often referred to the Jewish settlers in his journal and in letters. Here Bolzius describes some of the cultural differences between the town's Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews.

The Spanish and Portuguese Jews are not so strict insofar as eating is concerned as the others are. They eat, for instance, the beef that comes from the warehouse or that is sold anywhere else. The German Jews, on the other hand, would rather starve than eat meat they do not slaughter themselves.

The German Jews have in Savannah the same liberties as the Englishman. They drill with a rifle, as all the soldiers do. They have no other profession besides farming or dealing in small trade. The latter comes easier to them than the former. They even have a doctor, who has the permission of the Trustees [of the colony] to cure them when they are sick.

The Jews use at their service, which they are holding in an old and miserable hut, with men and women separated, the same ceremonies which I have seen in Berlin. A boy speaking several languages and especially good in Hebrew is their reader and he is paid for his services. There are not more than two families who can speak Jewish-German [Yiddish].

They do not know if they will ever get permission from the Trustees to build a synagogue. It will be quite some time. As I mentioned before, the Spanish and Portuguese Jews are against the German Jews and they are going to protest the petition by the German Jews to build a synagogue.

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