Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
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.” 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.”
“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.”
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.” 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.
Return To England
“Upon his return from the expedition, however, Gaunse faced anti-Semitism.” 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?’
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.”
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.”
 Joachim Gaunse www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Gaunse.html
 The First Jew in America judaism.about.com/od/americanjewry/f/firstamjew.htm
 Joachim Gaunse www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Gaunse.html
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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Brooklyn resident David Siller, currently studying in Israel at Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah in Beit Shemesh, was awarded a trophy for finishing 3rd in his age group (14-18) in a 5-kilometer race for the benefit of the Benjamin Children’s Library of Beit Shemesh.
Today is day six without a phone.
Besides for feeling slightly isolated, it’s not too bad.
I’ve been doing things that I know I would not be doing if my phone was sitting next to me, shiny screen beckoning.
Is anyone else alarmed by the way extended warranties are sold on just about anything and everything? It means one of two things – either someone has found a great way of getting consumers to part with more of their hard earned dollars or manufacturers have no faith in their own products. Neither of those options is particularly heartwarming.
As I described Gaon in a review in June 2001 (“In Search of Ancestors, Sculpture by Simon Gaon” at Yeshiva University Museum), his Bukharian Jewish roots are deeply embedded on both sides of his family, echoed in his early yeshiva education.
Let me begin by congratulating my dear machatunim, Soraya and Jay Nimaroff, on being the recipients of the Community Service Award at the Sderot Hesder Institutions 18th annual anniversary dinner.
Think of your issues this way: due to those different backgrounds, you have a “shovel” to deal with difficulties while he has a “spoon”.
Do you remember the good old days when kids were kids and there was never anything to worry about? Those days never really existed, but today there are issues kids worry about that weren’t issues for some adults. They include fear of bullying, natural disasters, divorce, and violence.
In Part I talked about celebrating 30 years of Regesh Family and Child Services providing services to children, teens and families. I shared the agency’s origin and the many lessons I have learned through this journey. As I mentioned, it is my hope that my experiences will add to your toolbox of life skills.
Unfortunately, a map of the Middle East with no mention of Israel is nothing new… It is surprising however, that the world’s largest publisher of children’s literature, Scholastic Books, has joined in this trend.
About six months ago my parents and I started discussing ideas for a mitzvah project in honor of my bat mitzvah. I wanted to do something unique that would be meaningful to me and also do something that my friends could participate in. Immediately I thought of an organization called Sharsheret.
“I’m disappointed that the agreement reached with Iran leaves our unfulfilled our ultimate objective: a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program and related activities.
Southern NCSY will be holding a leadership training Shabbaton at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour December 6 and December 7. Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, will be the special guest speaker.
Is there a beginning and an end to the universe? What role can medical breakthroughs play in conception or genetic engineering? Can science help us pinpoint the end of human life? Does the soul emanate from the brain or vice-versa?
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.
In last month’s column we traced the early career of Reverend Dr. Henry (Chaim) Pereira Mendes and described his extraordinary service to Congregation Shearith Israel in New York where he served as hazan (chazzan) and minister from 1877 to 1923 and then as minister emeritus from 1924 until his passing in 1937.
Beginning around 1840 the Reform movement began asserting itself as a major force in American Judaism. Indeed, with the rising tide of Reform during the nineteenth century it looked as if Orthodox Judaism might disappear. Many synagogues that had been founded by observant Jews and had remained for years true to halacha found their memberships increasingly calling for the institution of reforms and the abandonment of commitment to authentic Judaism.
Last month we sketched the life of Manuel Josephson (1729-1796), who immigrated to New York in the 1740s. Manuel was one of the few learned Jews residing in America in the 18th century. His talents were recognized by Congregation Shearith Israel, and he served on the synagogue’s bet din for several years and as its parnas (president) in 1762. He earned his living as a merchant.
The overwhelming majority of Jews who came to America before the Revolutionary War did not have an extensive Jewish education. One exception was Manuel Josephson (1729-1796), who was born and educated in Germany. His extensive knowledge of Judaism qualified him to serve on the beis din of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/the-first-jew-to-live-in-north-america/2005/05/04/
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