On this day: New Amsterdam becomes a city

By Jennifer Lipman, February 2, 2011

The city now known as the Big Apple began life as a Dutch colonial settlement, taking the name New York in 1664. Chosen as the capital of New Netherland and given municipal rights on February 2 1653, it had a population of just 5,000 by 1700 but by the time of American independence that had grown to about 25,000.

There are now near to 19 million people in New York State; it is estimated that more than 1.6 million of them are Jewish. It wasn’t always that way; the first Jewish community arrived in 1654.

Most were Spanish or Portuguese Jews who had fled the inquisition and arrived by way of Brazil. The community remained largely Sephardic until the 19th century, when large numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Pale arrived in the city and its surrounds.

Jewish life became organised, with summer camps, schools, immigrant societies and of course synagogues. Edwin Einstein, the first New York Jew to serve in congress took his seat in 1879.

What the JC said: To the Eastern parts of the North American Continent the Jews emigrated during the administration of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Governor of the Province of New Netherlands…Peter Stuyvesant, being a fanatical Calvanist, was very intolerant against the Lutherans and Quakers, and even more so against the Jews…The first six Jews that emigrated to new Amsterdam were Isaac De Meza, Abraham Lucas, Asher Levy, Melhado, Abraham Costa, and Jacob Hendricks. Their political situation improved when New Amsterdam became New York, but nonetheless, the Hews were repeatedly maltreated by the politicians.

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:33am, February 2 2011