Many of our previous kosher cruises sought to explore the ramifications of the 1492 Expulsion of the Jews in Spain, a religious and political act by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to consolidate their power in the region. This merciless decree had scattered the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula to various parts of Europe and beyond.

Some went to Amsterdam and the Ottoman Empire, where they were relatively well-received. Others went to France and Italy, where they faced different hardships. Some even went as far as Jamaica, and participated in privateering. However, as new hardships and opportunities arose as the centuries went by, some Jews in Europe began to look towards the New World, towards a new horizon where they might thrive and prosper.

The Various Waves of Jewish Immigration

New York City Skyline

 

When the concept of America as a nation was still in its infancy, it saw many waves of settlers coming to find new life in the New World. Among the many settlers and immigrants were various Jews, from Sephardim to Ashkenazi. The various groups of Jewish migrants came to America for different reasons. Some wanted a fresh start, while others decided that Europe was no longer a safe place to live. Plenty of Sephardim came to New Amsterdam (now New York City) from Brazil, while various Ashkenazi groups followed suit, in New Amsterdam and other ports around the country. Later waves would include German Jews in the 1840s and Eastern European Jews in the 18th Century.

The Potential of the New World

While persecution remained an ever-present threat, the Jews living in early America established a culture for themselves, distinct from the lifestyles of their ascendants in Europe. While antisemitic figures like Stuyvesant tried to harry the Jews seeking a new life in America, the perseverance of the communities prevailed, and have since left their mark in American history. The Jewish poet Emma Lazarus, in particular, championed the cause of Jewish migrants in the 18th century, but she could not have done so if the Jewish community in New York (which was once New Amsterdam) had not fought for their right to remain there. There are many places around America that are fit for historical Jewish travel tours, places that would be worth visiting once it is safe to go out once more.

 

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