Jews emigrated to North America in the earliest days of the colonial era, long before American independence and before the great waves of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. These early Jewish settlers represented a wide diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and the rich communities they formed together in New York, Rhode Island, Georgia, and elsewhere became the foundation for close to 370 years of American Jewish life.

The Museum, American Friends of Beit Hatfutsot, and The Jewish Heritage Alliance presented this special Thanksgiving program exploring the lives and communities of the earliest American Jews.

The program features:

  • Andrée Aelion Brooks, award-winning journalist and biographer of Doña Gracia Nasi;
  • Jane S. Gerber, the founder and director of the Institute for Sephardic Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York;
  • Joseph Lovett, notable filmmaker and Children of the Inquisition director;
  • Daniela Weil, writer, illustrator, and creator of the 2020 children’s book The Diary of Asser Levy: First Jewish Citizen of New York; and
  • Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University.

Watch the program below.