The Jews of New York City
Mende Glazer - January 11, 2009
There are more Jews in New York than within the city limits of Jerusalem making the New York area the largest Jewish community in the world. There have been Jews in New York for a very long time dating back to the 1600’s when a Jewish community from Recife in Brazil emigrated north to seek freedom from religious persecution and from the late 1800’s large migrations from Eastern Europe flooded the streets and boroughs of New York City. By the 1950’s it was estimated that over two million Jews were living in the city and they became about a quarter of the total population. These numbers ebbed because of low birth rates and the desire of many older Jews to seek the warmer climates of Florida and California in their later years but the numbers swelled again with new immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1980’s and 90’s.
Purim in N.Y. (photo: Mario Tama)
In the 19th century many Jewish immigrants settled in the tenement houses of Manhattan’s Lower East Side but over time they spread out to all five boroughs especially in Queens, the Bronx, and south Brooklyn. New York is home to many major events in modern Jewish history including the founding in 1843 of B’nai B’rith, the oldest Jewish service and advocacy organization in the world, the first Jewish community centre in North America and the very first Jewish public library.
When Congregation Shearith Israel built its first synagogue in 1730 on Mill Street just below Wall Street it was the first synagogue in the city but by 1850 there were 15 synagogues and 15,000 Jews living in New York. In 1825 the second synagogue was called B’nai Jeshuron and it became the forerunner of all the Ashkenazi “shuls” and “temples” in New York.
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