Second Wave of English Jews to the Colonies


English Crypto-Jews Disappear into the American Colonies

 

Part 3:  Second Wave to the Colonies: Legal Arrivals.

 

By Dr. Douglas Schar

 

Moses Michael Hays: Early American Colonial Jew.

 

The Legal Immigrants

The second wave of Crypto-Jewish immigration to the American colonies was radically different from the earlier wave, though only separated by 50 years. These colonists were primarily descendants of Jews who stayed in Spain and Portugal after the Edict of Expulsion (1492) and converted, or pretended to. They adopted an outward Catholic lifestyle for a time. Then, they made their way to Bordeaux, Amsterdam and London and fully returned to the religion of their ancestors. When it became legal for Jews to reside in England (1656), a steady stream of Sephardic Jews came.

 

In London, they set up businesses and helped open a major synagogue, Bevis Marks, in where else… Aldgate (1701).  Very quickly they sent family members to the other English colonies in the Americas, Barbados first, followed by Jamaica and then the other 13 American colonies. All the Jewish settlers sent to Savannah in 1733 had Bevis Marks to thank for their passage.

 

Some Iberian Conversos become openly practicing Jews while English subjects in England. Others became English subjects and practicing Jews after moving directly to the English colonies. Here are a few examples.

 

In Jamaica, on Tuesday, the 25th of November 1740 the following Sephardic Jews became English citizens.

JACOB MENDES GUTTERES.

BENJAMIN BRAVO.

ABRAHAM RIBIERO.

MOSES LOPES HENERIQUES (HENRIQUES).

JACOB PINTO BRANDON.

DAVID BRAVO.

ISAAC FUERTADO (FEURTADO).

MOSES MARTINS.

DEL. Mz. DA COSTA.

ISAAC RAMALHO.

MOSES COHEN DELARA.

AARON LAMERA.[i]

 

In New York, between the 1st of June 1740 and the 1st of June 1741 the following Sephardic Jews became English citizens.

DAVID GOMEZ.

MORDECAI GOMEZ.

DANIEL GOMEZ.

JACOB TERRO

SAMUEL LEVY.

SAMUEL MYERS COHEN.

ABRAHAM MYERS COHEN.

ABRAHAM ISAACS.

ISAAC LEVY.

SOLOMON MYERS.

JOSEPH SIMSON.

SOLOMON BARES.

DAVID HUY.

ABRM. RODRIGUES DE RIVERES.

DANLL. RODRIGUES VINERA.

MOSES LOPEZ.

JUDAH HAYES.

LEVY SAMUEL.[ii]

 

These groups of Crypto-Jews arrived at the colonies as practicing Jews, whether they made a stop in London or came directly to America.

 

They were not just practicing Jews, but practitioners who belonged what was known as the Nation or Nacao, sometimes the Portuguese Nation. This nation may have had its conceptual roots in the nation system of Bruges. But more than that, it was created by Iberian Jewish history. Iberian converted Jews were referred to as New Christians or members of the Hebrew Nation, or the Nation. Once outside the Iberian Peninsula, these people with a shared history, with origins deep in Iberian life, formed a new interconnected united web, one which they called the Nation. The Nation was a network of Iberian Jewish refugees living in Africa, Amsterdam, London, Boston, New York, Jamaica, Charleston, Savannah, Barbados, Suriname and more. The Nation had leaders, based in London and a rigid set of rules all members of the Nation were meant to obey in the far-flung colonies. Failure to oblige yourself of the rules could and did result in expulsion from the Nation. It meant being cut off from the trade network that spanned the globe. Members of the Nation followed the rules.

 

Rachel Myers: Wife of Moses Michael Hays. The couple commissioned famed silver maker, Paul Revere, Jr. to make a set of silver for their daughter, Judith Hays Myers for her marriage to her cousin, Samuel Myers, in 1786. Some of the silver found its way to a Christy’s auction in 1992.

 

For several generations these early and legal Jewish immigrants to the colonies, married amongst themselves. They became rich, affluent, and assimilated. Within the span of two generations, they began to marry non-Jews and disappear into the upper echelons of colonial and American society. As has been said, the bible of early American Jewish genealogy, “First American Jewish Families, written by Malcom Stern, was first titled, “Americans of Jewish Descent”, because most of these early arrivals disappeared into colonial society, early on. Many a blue blood member of the Daughters of the American Revolution have a forgotten Jewish ancestor.

 

[i] Naturalizations of Foreign Protestants in the American and West Indian Colonies Pursuant to Statute 13 George II, c.7. Publication of the Huguenot Society of London. Volume XXIV. Sherrat and Hughes. 1921.

 

[ii] Ibid.

 

 

Douglas Schar, Ph.D. is a historical consultant who contributes pieces on crypto-Jewish genealogy. He is the creator of the site Hidden Jewish Ancestry (which is highly recommended). One of his current history/genealogy projects is to make the so-called Alien Rolls of London (ca. 1520-1820) better known. These records mark the appearance in England (and thence to America) of Sephardic Jewish families which we think of today as “good old English stock,” such as Adams, Anderson, Drake, Davis and others.

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  1. This post fascinates me, particularly where you mention “the Nation” and their rigid rules. Presumably, these were rules to keep the group together, safe, and undiscovered — so what WERE these rigid rules, exactly.? Do we know? Was there a written list somewhere, that perhaps survives today in one or more copies? Or were the rules never written down, but inculcated from infancy by word-of-mouth in daily life?

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