Past Exhibition

The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World

October 28, 2016 - March 12, 2017

How did Jewish settlers come to inhabit—and change—the New World? Jews in colonial America and the young United States, while only a tiny fraction of the population, significantly negotiated the freedoms offered by the new nation and contributed to the flowering of American culture.

How did Jewish settlers come to inhabit—and change—the New World? Jews in colonial America and the young United States, while only a tiny fraction of the population, significantly negotiated the freedoms offered by the new nation and contributed to the flowering of American culture. The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World followed the trajectory of a people forced from their ancestral lands in Europe, as well as their homes in South America and the Caribbean, to their controversial arrival in New Amsterdam in 1654 to the unprecedented political freedoms they gained in early 19th-century New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. In this ground-breaking exhibition, rare portraits, drawings, maps, documents, and ritual objects illuminated how 18th- and 19th-century artists, writers, activists, and more adopted American ideals while struggling to remain distinct and socially cohesive amidst the birth of a new Jewish American tradition.

The exhibit is based primarily upon loans from the Princeton University Jewish American Collection, gift of Mr. Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953, and Mr. Leonard L. Milberg's personal collection. 

Lead support for this exhibition provided by Ellen and Leonard L. Milberg.

Additional support provided by

Steven and Shelley Einhorn

Stacy, Jason, Noah and Talia Helfstein

Helen and Robert Appel

David Dangoor/American Sephardi Federation

Barbara K. and Ira A. Lipman

Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr./

George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom

Jack and Susan Rudin

Pam and Scott Schafler

Jeffrey A. Schoenfeld

Laurie and Sy Sternberg

Norman S. Benzaquen

David Berg Foundation

Michele and Martin Cohen

Susan and Greg Danilow

Lori and Mark Fife

Mary Ann Fribourg

Ruth and Sid Lapidus

The Lerner Foundation

Martin Lewis and Diane Brandt

Cheryl and Glen Lewy

Ed and Sandy Meyer

Nancy and Morris W. Offit

Daryl and Steven Roth

Ann and Andrew Tisch

Mr. & Mrs. Peter L. Malkin

John and Jennifer Monsky

Leon and Toby Cooperman

Biddelman-Bascom Family Charitable Fund

Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation, Inc.

The New-York Historical Society is grateful to the Government of Mexico, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, and the Consulate General of Mexico in New York, for the loan of Luis de Carvajal's manuscripts.

Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.

  • NYC Cultural Affairs
  • NY Council on the Arts

Media sponsor:

  • WNET New York Public Media