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New Israel / New England

New Israel / New England: Jews and Puritans in Early America

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    New Israel / New England
    Book Description:

    The New England Puritans’ fascination with the legacy of the Jewish religion has been well documented, but their interactions with actual Jews have escaped sustained historical attention. New Israel/New England tells the story of the Sephardic merchants who traded and sojourned in Boston and Newport between the midseventeenth century and the era of the American Revolution. It also explores the complex and often contradictory meanings that the Puritans attached to Judaism and the fraught attitudes that they bore toward the Jews as a people. More often than not, Michael Hoberman shows, Puritans thought and wrote about Jews in order to resolve their own theological and cultural dilemmas. A number of prominent New Englanders, including Roger Williams, Increase Mather, Samuel Sewall, Benjamin Colman, Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and Ezra Stiles, wrote extensively about postbiblical Jews, in some cases drawing on their own personal acquaintance with Jewish contemporaries. Among the intriguing episodes that Hoberman investigates is the recruitment and conversion of Harvard’s first permanent instructor of Hebrew, the Jewishborn Judah Monis. Later chapters describe the ecumenical friendship between Newport minister Ezra Stiles and Haim Carigal, an itinerant rabbi from Palestine, as well as the life and career of Moses Michael Hays, the prominent freemason who was Boston’s first permanently established Jewish businessman, a founder of its insurance industry, an early sponsor of the Bank of Massachusetts, and a personal friend of Paul Revere.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-010-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION: “WE SHALL BE FRIENDS”: The European Background for Puritan Judeocentrism
    (pp. 1-17)

    In the seventeenth century two European peoples sought safe haven, both in Holland and in the New World, from the imperial influence of the Roman Catholic Church. These two peoples shared a reverence for the Hebrew Bible, and they both sought spiritual edification through their careful study of the language in which that Bible had been written. Leaving aside such affinities, however, Sephardic Jews and Puritans could hardly have been more distinct from each other in their geographical origins, ethnic lineage, folkways, linguistic background, or central religious tenets. From their standpoint as a people whose exile had been forced upon...

  6. CHAPTER ONE “JEWS, TURKS … AND ANTI-CHRISTIANS”: Alien Encounters with Puritan Hebraism
    (pp. 18-50)

    New England Puritans could never make up their minds about whether or how actual Jews were important. Right up until the end of the seventeenth century the arrival and temporary settlement of at least a dozen Jews in, respectively, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island eluded the focused attention of the same New Englanders who, whether they fancied themselves latter-day Israelites or sought figural guidance from the Hebrew Bible on their New World exile, consistently invoked the history of the Jews. Jews constituted one of several minority groups whose presence, though hardly welcomed or legally tolerated by Puritans, was an inevitable...

  7. CHAPTER TWO “NEW-ENGLAND IS SELDOM WHOLLY WITHOUT THEM”: Boston’s Frazon Brothers and the Limits of Puritan Zeal
    (pp. 51-85)

    On November 22, 1705, theBoston News-Letter’s correspondent in Barbados received word that Samuel Frazon, a Boston merchant of Sephardic parentage who was initially “feared to be Lost in coming from on board a Man of War” while sailing to Antigua from Boston had in fact survived his ordeal. The story that appeared in the March 11, 1706 edition of the paper offered readers the full scope of Frazon’s adventures. Caught by a storm in the Caribbean, he and his black slave survived six days without food or water and eventually washed ashore on the island of St. Vincent, “where...

    (pp. 86-120)

    Cotton Mather’s failure to bring about a miracle with Samuel Frazon may have dampened his enthusiasm at the prospect of being an instrument of God’s merciful redemption of the Jews, but conversion-minded New Englanders needed only to wait a few years before their prayers and efforts would achieve an even more fortuitous result. The recruitment, conversion, and appointment of a Hebrew instructor of Jewish birth by a committee of Harvard’s most eminent clergy in the 1720s constituted the most visible and fraught achievement of nearly a century’s worth of Hebraism in colonial Massachusetts. In the first decades of the eighteenth...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR “A HANDSOME ASSEMBLY OF PEOPLE”: Jewish Settlement and the Refinement of New England Culture
    (pp. 121-160)

    The development of a viable Jewish community in Newport, Rhode Island, in the 1750s coincided with what one historian has famously described as the evolution of religiously pious Puritans into commercially enterprising Yankees.¹ Ironically, this increase in Jewish visibility also coincided with the greatest revival of the Protestant faith to occur during the entire colonial era. Jonathan Edwards, the foremost thinker of this revival, had taken at least passing notice of the growing Jewish presence in British North America. In 1722, two years after he graduated from Yale College and while serving as an apprentice pastor to a group of...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE “AN OPENNESS TO CANDOUR”: Scholarly Ecumenicism in Pre-Revolutionary Newport
    (pp. 161-201)

    Isaac Touro, thehazzanof Yeshuat Israel, was not the only member of Newport’s clergy to deliver a Thanksgiving sermon on November 28, 1765.¹ Two short blocks from the new synagogue, Ezra Stiles addressed Newport’s Second Congregational Church on the same occasion. Born in 1727 in North Haven, Connecticut, Stiles had served as a minister in Newport since 1753, settling there after completing his studies and then serving as a tutor at Yale. Stiles’s strident pronouncement on the nature of religious liberty, freedom, and political power suggested that its author, like his townspeople and like Isaac Touro, was wrestling with...

  11. CHAPTER SIX “A MOST VALUABLE CITIZEN”: Moses Michael Hays and the Modernization of Boston
    (pp. 202-236)

    Moses Michael Hays sought a private transformation when he quoted “The Great Mr. [Alexander] Pope” in his 1770 letter to Aaron Lopez and Jacob Rod Rivera,¹ but the words he borrowed from the English poet’s “Essay on Man” spoke as well to cultural changes that were ascendant throughout New England in the revolutionary era. Born in New York in 1739 and part-time resident and merchant in Newport by the late 1760s, Hays hit a low point in 1770 when he was sentenced to a term in New York’s debtor’s prison. Hoping to clear his name even in anticipation of his...

  12. CONCLUSION: “GONE ARE THE LIVING BUT THE DEAD REMAIN”: The Jewish Legacy in Nineteenth-Century New England
    (pp. 237-248)

    In February 1790 Manuel Josephson, president of Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel congregation, wrote to Moses Seixas of Newport about the “capricious & whimsical disposition of some of the individuals” associated with the Rhode Island synagogue. The Philadelphian reflected on the liturgical dilemmas faced by all Jews living in the New World: “As to our North American Congregations, not so much can be said … as in reality they have no regular system; chiefly owing (in my opinion) to the smallness of their numbers, & the frequent mutability of the members from one place to another—And as from their first establishment they had...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 249-276)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 277-280)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)