18 April 2008

Pennsylvania: Jewish history

Did you know that Philadelphia's first Jewish inhabitant, Nathan Levy, arranged for shipping the Liberty Bell across the Atlantic so it could ring in the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence?

Levy - originally living in New York - sought a business opportunity in the Pennsylvania colony and obtained the first Jewish property to bury his young son in 1740. The communal Jewish cemetery still exists today on land received from William Penn's family.

Penn received from the British monarchy the rights to all of the Pennsylvania colony's land and tried to set up a colony based on Quaker principles, including tolerance of difference faiths, including Jewish.

During the American Revolution, some 250 Jews lived in Pennsylvania as many of them fled New York when it was held by the British. The first synagogue - one of the oldest in the US - was built with the help of Benjamin Franklin. The first Ashkenazi synagogue was built 14 years later.

Some 300,000 Jews live in Pennsylvania (of a general population of 12 million); 240,000 Jews live in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and another 40,000 live in Pittsburgh.

Readers are reminded that the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be co-hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia from August 2-7, 2009 - so mark your calendars now.

The article is longer, but is not really about about Jewish history - rather it details the politics of the president race. If you are interested, click here.

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