15 May 2013


I think COLONIAL JEWISH HISTORY, because it is most obscure, is of most interest to me these days. (That's one of the reasons I was so fascinated with the work being done to understand the Melungeons from multiple points of view - DNA, genealogy research, and family history stories. See my past posts on them!)

The JEWISH AMERICANS is a two set so this film series can be an evening of learning.  Here is what I learned:

The first Jewish synagogue was in New York City (New Amsterdam) long before the United States was formed, in the 17th century.

Charleston South Carolina had the largest Jewish community during slave times.

There were only about 2000 Jews in the US in 1776, at Declaration of Independence time.

Jews fought in the Civil War on both sides.

Among the many early business people and entrepreneurs was Joseph Speigel who eventually owned the catalogue company of the same name. Peddlers traveled on foot visiting farmsteads until they could afford a wagon until the catalogue went door to door through the mail.

The Ten Gallon hat, so associated with the Old West was created manufactured and sold by Jewish people.

By 1870 there were a quarter of a million Jews in the United States. Colonial Jews had a difficult time finding marriage partners and keeping their faith with no synagogues. This became the time of great synagogue building. Some of these synagogues are the most fantastic in architecture and ornamentation. Some communities however, created plain buildings that would not obviously be synagogues.

Rabbi Weis introduced organs, family pews (rather than separation of the sexes)... This was the founding of Reform Judaism, attributed to the German Jews.

German Jews were citizens and thought Russian and Polish Jews from the old country in the Industrial Revolution needed some help to become more American.

DVD put out by C 2008 Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association.

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