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"23 souls, big as well as little," arrive in North America

September 4, 1654

Early in September 1654, a group of Jews, described in the public records as "23 souls, big as well as little," arrived on the docks of the new world Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.

We know about their arrival because on September 7, presumably quite soon after their arrival, the captain of their ship the St. Catherine sued them for the cost of their freight and food en route. Of the six names of this initial group mentioned in surviving court records, two were women. Historians have speculated that there may have been more women than men in this original group.

A number of Jewish traders had already found their way to the New World before September 1654, but the presence of women and children among the New Amsterdam 23 signaled that this group had come not merely to make their fortunes, but to make a home. Accordingly, later American Jews have dated the founding of the American Jewish community to the arrival of this group.

Sources: Arnold Wiznitzer, "The Exodus from Brazil and Arrival in New Amsterdam of the Jewish Pilgrim Fathers, 1654," Publication of the American Jewish Historical Society, 44:1 (September, 1954): 80-97.

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I wonder what foods were eaten and why a lawsuit was needed. Is there any information on the amount of the lawsuit, and whether it was collected, if so, when and what occupations the women and men had in their first 5 yrs here in America.

Artist Susan C. Dessel will be speaking on September 15th at the NYPL Mid-Manhattan Library about the women among the first Jewish community in Nieuw Amsterdam (1654) and the art she created to honor the memory of these women and their female descendants. For details go to: http://www.nypl.org/events/pro...

New Amsterdam in 1671.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. ""23 souls, big as well as little," arrive in North America." (Viewed on December 5, 2020) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/sep/04/1654/north-america-arrival>.

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