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New Israel / New England

Jews and Puritans in Early America

Michael Hoberman

Publication Year: 2011

The New England Puritans’ fascination with the legacy of the Jewish religion has been well documented, but their interactions with actual Jews have escaped sustained historical attention. New Israel/New England tells the story of the Sephardic merchants who traded and sojourned in Boston and Newport between the mid-seventeenth century and the era of the American Revolution. It also explores the complex and often contradictory meanings that the Puritans attached to Judaism and the fraught attitudes that they bore toward the Jews as a people. More often than not, Michael Hoberman shows, Puritans thought and wrote about Jews in order to resolve their own theological and cultural dilemmas. A number of prominent New Englanders, including Roger Williams, Increase Mather, Samuel Sewall, Benjamin Colman, Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and Ezra Stiles, wrote extensively about post-biblical Jews, in some cases drawing on their own personal acquaintance with Jewish contemporaries. Among the intriguing episodes that Hoberman investigates is the recruitment and conversion of Harvard’s first permanent instructor of Hebrew, the Jewish-born Judah Monis. Later chapters describe the ecumenical friendship between Newport minister Ezra Stiles and Haim Carigal, an itinerant rabbi from Palestine, as well as the life and career of Moses Michael Hays, the prominent freemason who was Boston’s first permanently established Jewish businessman, a founder of its insurance industry, an early sponsor of the Bank of Massachusetts, and a personal friend of Paul Revere.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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Title Page

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pp. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-iv

Dedication Page

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pp. v-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvi

Like Judaism, Puritanism was a profoundly discursive faith, and its practitioners were never more themselves than when they debated each other. In their own writing about and interaction with actual Jews, Puritans could be at once harshly judgmental and strangely admiring. Although their high ...

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“We Shall be Friends”: The European Background for Puritan Judeocentrism

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pp. 1-17

In the seventeenth century two European peoples sought safe haven, both in Holland and in the New World, from the imperial influence of the Roman Catholic Church. These two peoples shared a reverence for the Hebrew Bible, and they both sought spiritual edification through their ...

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Chapter 1. “Jews, Turks . . . and Anti-Christians”: Alien Encounters with Puritan Hebraism

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pp. 18-50

New England Puritans could never make up their minds about whether or how actual Jews were important. Right up until the end of the seventeenth century the arrival and temporary settlement of at least a dozen Jews in, respectively, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island eluded ...

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Chapter 2. “New-England is Seldom Wholly without them”: Boston’s Frazon Brothers and the Limits of Puritan Zeal

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pp. 51-85

On November 22, 1705, the Boston News-Letter’s correspondent in Barbados received word that Samuel Frazon, a Boston merchant of Sephardic parentage who was initially “feared to be Lost in coming from on board a Man of War” while sailing to Antigua from Boston had in fact ...

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Chapter 3. “A Jew Rarely Comes Over to us but he Brings Treasures with him”: The Conversion and Harvard Career of Judah Monis

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pp. 86-120

Cotton Mather’s failure to bring about a miracle with Samuel Frazon may have dampened his enthusiasm at the prospect of being an instrument of God’s merciful redemption of the Jews, but conversionminded New Englanders needed only to wait a few years before their prayers and efforts would achieve an even more fortuitous result. The ...

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Chapter 4. “A Handsome Assembly of People”: Jewish Settlement and the Refinement of New England Culture

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pp. 121-160

The development of a viable Jewish community in Newport, Rhode Island, in the 1750s coincided with what one historian has famously described as the evolution of religiously pious Puritans into commercially enterprising Yankees.1 Ironically, this increase in Jewish visibility also ...

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Chapter 5. “An Openness to Candour”: Scholarly Ecumenicism in Pre-Revolutionary Newport

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pp. 161-201

Isaac Touro, the Hazzan of Yeshuat Israel, was not the only member of Newport’s clergy to deliver a Thanksgiving sermon on November 28, 1765.1 Two short blocks from the new synagogue, Ezra Stiles addressed Newport’s Second Congregational Church on the same occasion. Born ...

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Chapter 6. “A most Valuable Citizen”: Moses Michael Hays and the Modernization of Boston

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pp. 202-236

Moses Michael Hays sought a private transformation when he quoted “The Great Mr. [Alexander] Pope” in his 1770 letter to Aaron Lopez and Jacob Rod Rivera,1 but the words he borrowed from the English poet’s “Essay on Man” spoke as well to cultural changes that were ascendant ...

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Conclusion: “Gone are the Living but the Dead Remain”: The Jewish Legacy in Nineteenth-Century New England

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pp. 237-248

In February 1790 Manuel Josephson, president of Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel congregation, wrote to Moses Seixas of Newport about the “capricious & whimsical disposition of some of the individuals” associated with the Rhode Island synagogue. The Philadelphian reflected on the ...


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pp. 249-276


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pp. 277-280

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760109
E-ISBN-10: 1613760108
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558499065
Print-ISBN-10: 1558499067

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 1
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 794700811
MUSE Marc Record: Download for New Israel / New England

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • New England -- Ethnic relations.
  • Puritans -- New England -- History -- 18th century.
  • Puritans -- New England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Jews -- New England -- History -- 18th century.
  • Jews -- New England -- History -- 17th century.
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