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Opening prayer at the 250th Anniversary of Jewish Settlement in the United States — by Rabbi Joseph Silverman (1905)


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Almighty Father, source of light and life,
we revere Thee as the Providence
that guides the affairs of man
and the destinies of nations.
Thou sendest forth Thy ministers
to destroy what is false and evil
and to plant what is true and good.
Throughout the ages
Thou hast been the Guardian of Israel,
who sleepest not, nor slumberest—
a pillar of cloud to lead them by day
and a pillar of fire to show them the way at night.
In the dark days of bondage,
of wanderings and exile,
of servitude under foreign masters,
Thou hast ever been Israel’s comfort,
prop and hope.
Our forefathers labored and struggled
for conviction and faith.
We have received the heritage of Israel
and shall bravely bear all trials
in the service of truth and justice.
But not unto us is the glory;
Thine, O Lord, are the power,
the glory, and the majesty.
We thank Thee with deep-felt gratitude,
that Thou hast cast our lot in pleasant places,
that Thou didst guide our ancestors to this land of liberty,
and didst prosper them in the days of yore.
We thank Thee for America,
this haven of refuge for the oppressed of the world.
We thank Thee for the blessings
of a permanent home in this country,
its opportunities for development of life
and advancement of mind and heart,
for its independence and unity,
its free institutions,
the rights to life,
and the pursuit of happiness.
We reverently bow before Thy decree,
which has taught us to find
enduring peace and security
in the sure foundation of this blessed land.
Here we have established our habitations and tabernacles,
here we have erected our synagogues
and homes for the needy,
the orphans and widows,
the sick and forlorn,
and we fervently pray
that we may be permitted to abide here forever
in prosperity and in amity
with all the people of the land.
Mindful of all the blessings we enjoy in this land,
we are grateful unto Thee for the contrast presented to-day
between the country of freedom
and the country of Russian slavery—
between this nation of justice and peace
and the Eastern land of tyranny and destruction.
We pray unto Thee, the Ruler of nations,
to spread Thy wings of protection
over our common country.
Bless the President
and his counselors
and the magistrates
and legislators of the nation,
and of every state and city in the Union.
Keep far from our beloved land
the ravages of sword, fire, flood, and pestilence.
May no foe from within or without
threaten its peace and integrity.
May this land advance toward
ever higher planes of truth and justice
to the end that America may become
the bearer of peace to all the nations of the world.
We pray also for our suffering brethren
who, in a distant land,
are passing through the fire that consumeth
and the water that overwhelmeth.
Stay the hand of the oppressor,
dull the edge of the sword,
and divert the course of the deadly weapon.
Send forth Thy ministering angels
to heal the afflicted and bind up the broken-hearted.
And let all men learn and practice the wise teaching,
to love the Lord their God
with all their heart and soul and might,
and to love their fellow-men as themselves.
Speed the time, O God,
when all men shall believe the truth
and shall practice what they profess.

This is the opening prayer offered by Rabbi Joseph Silverman for “the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the Jews in the United States, 1655-1905,” at Carnegie Hall, New York City, Thanksgiving Day, 30 November 1905. The prayer was published in the 14th issue of the Publications Of The American Jewish Historical Society (1906) and in a book The two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the Jews in the United States, 1655-1905, also published that same year by the AJHS.

On 22 August 22 1654, Jacob Barsimson arrived in New Amsterdam after having left the Netherlands on July 8. Barsimson had been sent out by the Jewish leaders of Amsterdam, Dutch Republic to determine the possibilities of an extensive Jewish immigration to New Amsterdam. He is the first known Jewish immigrant to America. Jewish settlement in New Amsterdam began in September 1654.

In September 1654, 23 Jews arrived in New Amsterdam aboard the St Cathrien. The Jews had come from Recife in Northeast Brazil, where they lived under Dutch rule. The Portuguese captured Recife from the Dutch and expelled the Jews. When the Jews arrived the captain of the ship sued them for the money to pay for their passage. The local court sold their belonging and imprisoned two of the party.

Peter Stuyvesant the governor of the colony was not happy to receive the Jews. He described the Jews as “deceitful” and very “repugnant”. Stuyvesant asked permission from the Dutch East India Company, who the colony belonged to remove the Jews from the settlement. The board, which included several Jewish investors, refused and instructed the governor to allow the new Jewish settlers to remain in New Amsterdam.

The 23 Jews who arrived were not the first Jews to arrive in North America, but [this is] the first record we have of a group of men women and children arriving to make it their permanent home.






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