New York City’s first Jewish community helped make our city a city that is open to all.
In 1654 a group of twenty-three Sephardic (Iberian) Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Portugal and then Brazil arrived in what was then Dutch New Amsterdam.
Peter Stuyvesant, the town’s Director-General, wrote to his bosses in the Dutch West India Company for permission to expel the Sephardi.
In their wisdom, the directors wrote back,
“The consciences of men ought to be free and unshackled, so long as they continue moderate, peaceable, inoffensive and not hostile to government. Such have been the maxims of … toleration by which … this city has been governed; and the result has been, that the oppressed and persecuted from every country have found among us an asylum from distress. Follow in the same steps and you shall be blessed.”
From “New York” by Ric Burns and James Sanders with Lisa Ades
Ever since all the peoples of the world have been welcomed in New York City as long as they are willing to work and be governed. The directors were correct. We have been blessed.