Besides the different sects of Christians, there are many
Jews settled in New York, who possess great privileges.
They have a synagogue and houses, and great country-seats
of their own property, and are allowed to keep shops in
town. They have likewise several ships, which they freight
and send out with their own goods. In fine, they enjoy all
the privileges common to the other inhabitants of this town
During my residence at New York, this time, and in the next
two years, I was frequently in company with Jews. I was
informed, among other things, that these people never boiled
any meat for themselves on Saturday, but that they always
did it the day before; and that in winter they
kept a fire during the whole Saturday. They commonly
eat no pork; yet I have been told by several men of credit,
that many of them (especially among the young Jews), when
traveling, did not make the least difficulty about eating
this, or any other meat that was put before them; even though
they were in company with Christians.
I was in their
synagogue last evening for the first time, and this
day at noon I visited it again, and each time I was put
into a particular seat, which was set apart for strangers
or Christians. A young
rabbi read the divine service, which was partly in Hebrew,
and partly in the rabbinical
dialect. Both men and women were dressed entirely in
the English fashion; the former had all of them their hats
on, and did not once take them off during service. The galleries,
I observed, were appropriated to the ladies, while the men
sat below. During prayers, the men spread a white
cloth over their heads, which perhaps is to represent
sackcloth. But I observed that the wealthier sort of people
had a much richer sort of cloth than the poorer ones. Many
of the men had Hebrew books, in which they sang and read
alternately. The rabbi stood in the middle of the synagogue,
and read with his face turned towards the east; he spoke,
however, so fast, as to make it almost impossible for any
one to understand what he said.
Stuyvesant replied that Jewish settlers should not be granted
the same liberties enjoyed by Jews in Holland, lest members
of other persecuted minority groups, such as Roman Catholics,
be attracted to the colony. Dutch West India Company officials,
sharing his fears, responded with the following ruling.
The consent given to the Jews to go to New Netherland and
there to enjoy the same liberty that is granted them in
this country was extended with respect to civil and political
liberties, without the said Jews becoming thereby entitled
to a license to exercise and carry on their religion in
synagogues or gatherings.
A year later, Stuyvesant sent the following wry report to
the company on his compliance with the company's policies.
June 10, 1656
. . . Considering the Jewish nation with regard to trade,
they are not hindered, but trade with the same privilege
and freedom as other inhabitants. Also, they have many times
requested of us the free and public exercise of their abominable
religion, but this cannot yet be accorded to them. What
they may be able to obtain from your Honors time will tell.