Jewish American history in brief

1654 / Twenty-three Jewish refugees flee Brazil, where they'd gone to escape the Spanish Inquisition. They land in New Amsterdam, which will be renamed New York in 1664.

1655 / Dutch West India Company allows Jewish settlers to become permanent residents of New Amsterdam.

1656 / Dr. Jacob Lumbrozo, a Portuguese physician, arrives in Maryland on Jan. 24. He becomes known as "Ye Jew doctor" because he refuses to hide his Jewishness.

1700 / Jewish population of America is about 250. *

1730 / New York Jews dedicate Shearith Israel, their first synagogue, on Mill Street. The congregation had worshiped in a rented house previously.

1750 / Charleston, S.C., has an organized Jewish community.

1761 / First High Holiday prayer book in English is published in New York.

1763 / Newport, R.I., builds its first synagogue, the oldest one still standing in the US today. *

1778 / Moses Levy of Philadelphia becomes the first trained Jewish lawyer, and later serves as a judge in the city. Levy was with George Washington during the famous crossing of the Delaware River in 1776.

1781 / Haym Salomon, a Polish Jew who arrived in New York in 1772, helps raise money to support the American cause in the Revolutionary War.

1789 / Gershom Mendes Seixas, hazan of New York's Jewish congregation, is invited to the inauguration of President George Washington.

1790 / The Jews of Newport, R.I., welcome President Washington. He responds in a letter with the famous words that this government "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance," giving Jews a guarantee of religious liberty.

1808 / Polonies Talmud Torah, the first Jewish school on record in America, is established in New York.

1813 / Mordecai Manuel Noah - politician, editor, and playwright - is appointed US consul at Tunis. This is the first major diplomatic post awarded an American Jew.

1830 / Substantial numbers of German Jews begin to emigrate to America.

1833 / Penina Moise's "Fancy Sketch Book," the first book by an American Jewish woman, is published in South Carolina.

1841 / David Levy Yulee of Florida is the first Jew elected to the US Senate.

1843 / B'nai B'rith (Sons of the Covenant), the first secular Jewish organization in the US, is founded by 12 Jewish immigrants.

1854 / Judah Touro becomes ones of America's first philanthropists when he donates several hundred thousand dollars to Jewish and non-Jewish charitable institutions.

1864 / Sgt. Leopold Karpeles is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for rallying the men of the 57th Massachusetts Volunteers around the flag, which he carried, during the Civil War's Battle of the Wilderness. His efforts helped turn a retreat into a victory for the Union Army.

1873 / Levi Strauss patents his denim pants, the first bluejeans. *

1874 / David Lubin is the first to sell merchandise at fixed prices at a time when customers expected to bargain for retail items.

1876 / Jacob Zevi Sobel (James H. Sobel) is considered the first Yiddish poet of literary merit in America.

1880 / Yiddish theater becomes popular with New York's large population of Jewish immigrants. Favorable review 1881 / Russian pogroms force thousands of East European Jews to emigrate to the US. Before strict immigration quotas are established in 1924, 2.5 million poor Jews flee from Russia, Poland, Austro-Hungary, and Romania.

1903 / Emma Lazarus's sonnet "The New Colossus" is added to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, which was unveiled in 1886. The most famous lines of the poem are: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

1903 / Oscar Straus becomes US secretary of Labor and Commerce, the first Jew to hold a cabinet post.

1907 / Physicist Albert Abraham Michelson becomes the first Jewish-American winner of the Nobel Prize. His work allowed researchers to measure the diameter of stars.

1909 / Chicago merchant and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald converts Sears, Roebuck and Co. into the world's largest mail-order house.

1909 to 1910 / Twenty thousand shirtwaistmakers, mostly immigrant Jewish women and girls, go on strike to protest intolerable working conditions. Some are beaten and jailed. Their efforts inspire other members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to continue the struggle to improve workers' lives.

1911 / A fire in New York's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory kills 146 women, mostly Jews. The unsafe building conditions, which led to the fire, prompt new factory safety legislation. *

1913 / B'nai B'rith establishes the Anti-Defamation League to combat anti-Semitism in the US.

1915 / Moses Alexander is elected governor of Idaho, the first Jew to win the governorship of an American state.

1916 / Louis D. Brandeis becomes the first Jewish justice of the US Supreme Court. *

1925 / Edna Ferber is the first Jewish novelist to win the Pulitzer Prize - for her novel "So Big." One of the most popular women writers of the 1920s, she also wrote "Show Boat."

1927 / Al Jolson becomes the first star of talking motion pictures. "The Jazz Singer" was his first picture. He was born Asa Yoelson in Russia and emigrated to the US when he was 7.

1931 / "Of Thee I Sing" is the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize. It was composed by George Gershwin and written by George S. Kaufman, Ira Gershwin, and Morris Ryskind.

1939 / Irving Berlin introduces his song "God Bless America." Later he writes "White Christmas."

1943 / Raphael Lemkin, an international lawyer who fled from Poland in 1941, coins the word genocide to describe Nazi extermination of European Jews.

1948 / Brandeis University is established as the first secular university in the US under Jewish auspices.

1973 / Henry Kissinger becomes secretary of State under President Nixon, the highest political position a Jew had ever held. He also wins the Nobel Peace Prize, another first for an American Jew. *

1984 / Judith Resnik becomes the first Jewish astronaut and the second woman to fly in space. A classical pianist, she earned her doctorate in electrical engineering.

1986 / Author Elie Wiesel wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his chronicles of the Holocaust.

1993 / Holocaust Memorial Museum opens in Washington, D.C.

2000 / US Sen. Joseph Lieberman becomes the first Jewish vice presidential candidate of a major political party.

Sources: 'First Facts in American Jewish History,' by Tina Levitan; 350 Years of American Jewish History (; American Jewish Historical Society (

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