Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Whatever happened to the descendants of America's first Jews?

This is an interesting web project from the University of North Carolina.

Particularly interesting is the segment entitled A Sephardic Story by Robert Altamont Moses.

I have always wondered whatever happened to the descendants of the Sephardic pioneers who first settled these shores. Undoubtedly, many assimilated and have become part of the melting pot that is America, but it would be interesting to find out if there are still identifiably Jewish descendants out there.

I did recently read an article which mentioned one Henry Noach a descendant of the famous American Sephardi Mordecai Manuel Noah who is active in an organization called Shavei Israel that assists "lost Jews"(Nice to see him following in his illustrious ancestor's footsteps).

I have been referred to some books that may shed more light on the subject:

The grandees: America's Sephardic elite by Stephen Birmingham

First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies 1654–1988 by Malcolm H. Stern

Note: I have yet to read them.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

SERIES Sephard in Ashkenaz and Ashkenaz in Sephard. The Unlikely Ties between Sephardim and Yiddish.

This article reminded of a little known historical fact.

Yitzchak Leibush Peretz (1852-1915)was a well known figure in the emergence of Yiddishism and Yiddish literature in Eastern Europe.

Peretz was born in Zamcoz, Poland and began his career as a lawyer and later as a cemetery caretaker. What is less known about him is that he was came from a prominent Sephardic family. Now,you might ask what is a Sephardic man doing in Poland and writing Yiddish literature no less.

The founders of the Zamocz Jewish community were Sephardic Jews, in fact King Casimir of Poland only permitted Spanish and Portugese Jews (mostly merchants from the Ottoman empire)to settle there.

Another famous historical figure who came from Zamocz was Communist leader Rosa Luxembourg.

Zamocz was an interesting exception to the rule in that it is probably the only exclusively Sephardic enclave known to have existed within overwhelmingly Ashkenazic Poland. The existence of individual Sephardic Jews all over Eastern Europe-almost all of whom became "Ashkenazified"- is another overlooked topic which I will discuss more in depth in another post.

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