web analytics
April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



The First Jew To Live In North America


Share Button

The year 2004 marked the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in America. In 1654 the first Jews arrived from Brazil to take up permanent residence in New Amsterdam (New York). When the Portuguese re-conquered Pernambuco, a portion of northern Brazil, from the Dutch, the Jews residing there fled because they feared the return of the Inquisition. In 1654 most of the Jews living in Pernambuco sailed from Recife, Pernambuco’s capital city. Twenty-three of these Jews eventually settled in New York.

However, the Jews who founded a community in New York were by no means the first Jews to arrive in North America. In 1581 Joachim (Jeochim, Jochim) Gaunse (Gaunz, Ganse, Gans), a Jewish metallurgist and mining engineer from Prague, was invited to England by the Royal Mining Company.

“In 1584 Britain was preparing for war with Spain and desperately needed copper, a critical element in the production of bronze.”[1] The English used bronze to manufacture “accurate cannons that gave their warships an advantage over the cast iron cannons of the Spaniards. This superior firepower provided by bronze cannonry proved crucial and was responsible in 1588 for the English navy’s victory over the much larger Spanish Armada.”[2]

“Gaunse’s contributions to English bronze manufacture were monumental, and he was able to revolutionize their manufacture of bronze. He reduced the time needed to purify copper ore from 16 weeks to 4 days. In addition, he found a way to use the impurities removed from the ore in textile dyes. In an age when many still believed in alchemy (the ‘science’ of turning base metals into gold), Gaunse was a pioneer in the use of modern scientific research methods.”[3]

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) was a British poet, historian, explorer, and soldier. Since he was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, in 1584 he received a royal patent to explore the Virginia territory in the New World and found a permanent settlement. The queen hoped that the colonists would discover copper, silver and gold, or at least find a passageway to the Orient. Sir Walter recruited Gaunse to serve as metallurgist and mining supervisor to this Roanoke expedition. “Gaunse thus became the first recorded Jew to set foot on English soil in North America.”[4] Centuries later, archaeologists attributed the lumps of smelted copper and goldsmith’s crucible found in the Roanoke site ruins to Gaunse.

The Roanoke colony did indeed succeed in discovering copper, but failed to endure the harsh new environment. The Roanoke colonists were homesick, physically challenged, fearful of the Indians, and discouraged by the failure of the Royal Mining Company to send additional supplies. The colonists accepted an offer from Sir Francis Drake, whose fleet was passing nearby, to carry them back to England. Joachim Gaunse and his comrades left the New World.[5]

Return To England

“Upon his return from the expedition, however, Gaunse faced anti-Semitism.”[6] Soon after he arrived back in England, Sir Walter Raleigh fell into Elizabeth’s disfavor, in part at least because many believed that he did not accept a fundamental tenet of Christianity. “As a member of Raleigh’s circle, Gaunse attracted unfavorable attention. After moving to the town of Bristol, Gaunse gave Hebrew lessons to English gentlemen who wanted to read the Bible in its original tongue. This was not well received by some, and in 1589 Reverend Richard Curteys visited Gaunse. It became immediately apparent to Curteys that Gaunse was a Jew. Curteys asked Gaunse, ‘Do you deny Jesus Christ to be the Son of God?’ Gaunse replied, “What needeth the almighty God to have a son, is he not almighty?’[7]

He was not afraid to openly state his commitment to Judaism despite the risks.

“Gaunse had spoken what was considered “blasphemy,” and he was brought before the mayor and aldermen of Bristol. There is no question that if he had been a Christian he might have been burned at the stake as a heretic. As the archival record indicates, however, Gaunse ‘affirmeth and sayeth that he was circumcised and hath been always instructed and brought up in the Talmud of the Jews and was never baptised.’ Therefore, by definition, he could not be a heretic. Instead, Gaunse was simply considered to be an infidel, a non-believer, much like a Muslim or a Confucian. One should keep in mind that in 1290 Edward I had expelled the Jewish population of England. However, by the time of Elizabeth’s reign, enforcement of the expulsion decree was greatly relaxed. Rather than deal with this Jew who was connected to the Royal Mining Company, Bristol’s town fathers referred his case to the queen’s Privy Council, which was composed of the mining company’s major investors. Gaunse was transported back to London for judgment.”[8]

Unfortunately, the historical record simply ends at this point. We do not know the result of the deliberations of the Privy Council regarding Gaunse’s case. “Historians speculate that Gaunse was probably protected by his friends on the Privy Council, for whom his metallurgical innovations had reaped rewards. He might have remained quietly in England or he may have returned to Bohemia. There is no record that Gaunse was punished further, and his name drops from the public record.

“Joachim Gaunse’s experience foreshadowed that of many American colonial Jews: he was simultaneously an insider and an outsider, useful as a scientist but unfit for full rights in a Christian society. Recruited to America by Raleigh for his expertise, protected by the Privy Council for the money he earned its members, Gaunse was apparently accepted among the tolerant explorers of Roanoke. He was challenged, however, by orthodox Christians.

“Gaunse revolutionized English metallurgy and helped England defeat the Spanish Armada, but a year later he was charged with blasphemy and forced to withdraw from public – and the historical record. Despite his contributions to English and American history, Gaunse remained on the margins of society simply because he was a Jew.”[9]

[1] Joachim Gaunse www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Gaunse.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] The First Jew in America judaism.about.com/od/americanjewry/f/firstamjew.htm

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Joachim Gaunse www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Gaunse.html

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine is a professor in the department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. He can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

Share Button

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “The First Jew To Live In North America”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.
All in the Family: BDS Protests Zabars; Carole Zabar Promotes BDS
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.

Marriage-Relationship-logo

We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Baim-041814-Piggy

Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Dear Dr. Yael:

My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Levine-Dr-Yitzchok-NEW

“Attuned to the ideal of establishing a new Zion in free America, they named their new colony Palestine.

Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.

There were very few Jewish farmers in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, in many parts of Europe Jews were forbidden to own land. Despite this there were some Jews who always felt they should return to the agrarian way of life their forefathers had pursued in ancient times, and that America was an ideal place to establish Jewish agricultural colonies.

The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s actions, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit. Contributions are urgently solicited.

Last month’s column sketched the myriad of social programs in which the Orthodox American communal worker and leader Adolphus S. Solomons (1826-1910) was involved. Adolphus married Rachel Seixas Phillips (1828-1881), a descendant of colonial patriot families and together they had eight daughters and a son.

There are many observant Jews who contributed much to secular and Jewish life in America and yet have, unfortunately, been essentially forgotten. One such man is Adolphus Simson Solomons (1826-1910).

Cholera was officially recognized to be of epidemic proportions in New York City on June 26, 1832. The epidemic was at its peak in July and 3,515 out of a population of about 250,000 died. (The equivalent death toll in today’s city of eight million would exceed 100,000.) Sadly, in 1832 there were no effective treatments available for those who contracted this disease.

As this is our third column on the Reverend Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, we’ll begin with a summary of his life.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/the-first-jew-to-live-in-north-america/2005/05/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: