Adam Matthew Jewish Life in America 1654-1954










This AM collection explores the history of Jewish communities in America from their first arrival in New York in 1654 to the modern day.


It is based on a variety of original manuscript collections from the American Jewish Historical Society in New York. This resource offers insights into the everyday lives of the American Jewish population over three centuries charting the Jewish Diaspora from the earliest settlements through to the mass European influx of the early twentieth century.


Original manuscript documents included in this collection range from a peddler’s certificate signed by Benjamin Franklin, to records of organizations such as the Baron de Hirsch fund, which supported Jewish entrepreneurship all across America from 1891 to the 1980s.


Highlights of this collection include:


  • The evolution of early Jewish Settlements in areas such as New York, Rhode Island and Philadelphia.
  • The immigration process and structures of support for those arriving from the Old World – the differing experiences of immigrants and, from the late 19th century, strategies adopted at Ellis Island and in Galveston.
  • The role of Jews in the American War of Independence and the Civil War.
  • The role of the synagogue as a focal point for Jewish communities.
  • The development of Jewish schools and charitable institutions.
  • Westward expansion and the attempts to establish Jewish farms.
  • The Jewish Diaspora – the influx of Jews from Western Europe, Eastern Europe and other places around the world and their dispersal across America.
  • The garment industry, peddling, general stores, finance and diversification into other industries.
  • The development of differing strands of Judaism in America – Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionism and Orthodoxy – and the roots of this in patterns of immigration and in societal changes.
  • Reaching out to Jewish communities around the world – especially to Russia, Romania, Germany and Eastern Europe.
  • American Jewish involvement in the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.
  • Involvement in Civil Rights and Minority Rights issues.


More information is available at Adam Matthew Jewish Life in America 1654-1954

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