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I read Pamela R. Winnick's article "The Jews of Early America," (Forum, July 1) and found it informative. I take issue, however, with her assertion that colonial Jews were tolerated because of their small numbers. The incidents she describes under Peter Stuyvesant occurred in a territory controlled by Holland.
The colonial Americans, the Puritans, the Pilgrims, the Quakers and the majority of the Christian colonials were thrilled to read the Bible both in Hebrew and English. A Hebrew Bible was a prized possession in the colonial household, be it a home of wealth or a poor log cabin.
Thomas Jefferson, who had the largest library in North America, studied the Talmud in the original. In New England Christians wrote a new English translation of the Psalms of David. Even the planning for the first Puritan and Pilgrim communities in the New World was done with a careful eye to the details of the early lives of the characters of the Old Testament as the New Testament did not offer a lot of day-to-day details on the organization of a faith-based community.
The sentiment of the times was that the Jew would certainly have the right to worship in this country as all men have the right to worship here.
In latter days there was a good deal of communication between American Jewish scholars and American academics. The results were a more positive understanding of the foundations on which Christianity was based, and there was a mutual respect between the scholars of both religions. A respect and an understanding that could be instructive to us as well.
First Published July 8, 2012 12:00 am