Carolina - The Jews

Protected from persecution in the Fundamental Constitutions of 1669, few came

For some decades Jews had flourished in Dutch-held areas of Brazil, but a Portuguese conquest of the area in 1654 confronted them with the prospect of the introduction of the Inquisition, which had already burned a Brazilian Jew at the stake in 1647. A shipload of twenty-three Jewish refugees from Dutch Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (soon to become New York) in 1654. By the next year, this small community had established religious services in the city.

By 1658, Jews had arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, also seeking religious liberty. Small numbers of Jews continued to come to the English colonies, settling mainly in the seaport towns, including Charles Town in 1695. By the time of the Declaration of Independence, Jewish settlers had established several thriving synagogues in the colonies.

The second colonial charter of Carolina of 1665 was heavily influenced by the English philosopher John Locke. The charter called for religious toleration of Jews and protected them from attack or libel because of their faith. The charter was rejected five times by the local legislature.

Essentially the ideal of toleration was adopted by the people; they simply ignored official discrimination. The practical need for people and human resources was too great. The earliest record of Jewish presence in Carolina dates from 1695. Kehilat Kadosh Beth Elohim, organized in 1749, dedicated its synagogue in 1797 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Click Here to view/download a very good book "The Jews of South Carolina," by Barnett A. Elzas, MD, LLD, published by the J.P. Lippincott Company of Philadelphia in 1905. This covers SC from the beginning to the early 1900s.


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