Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jewish Knowledge (6)

Topic: Jewish Tid-Bits-Brooklyn #1

The Jewish community of New York City was almost 180 years old when permanent Jewish settlement began in Brooklyn in the 1830s. There is evidence, however, that the history of Brooklyn Jewry goes back to the 17th century.

In the 1660s and 1670s, Asser Levy owned considerable property in the old Dutch settlement of Breucklen, as Brooklyn used to be called. Then, on August 15, 1683, the colonial courthouse at Flatbush recorded that "The worthy Abraham Franckfoort, a Jew, residing in N. Jorck (New York) and Peter Stryker, residing in Vlackebos (Flatbush)" had entered into a business arrangement. The original record is in the archives of Kings County (Brooklyn). Town records of New Lots, Gravesend, New Utrecht, Williamsburg and other villages that later became part of Brooklyn indicate that a number of Jews were property-owners there in the first decades of the eighteenth century. The Jacob Franks family owned a summer home in Flatbush.

Several Jews were with the American forces during the Battle of Long Island, which was fought on Brooklyn soil. Samuel Noah, a relative of Mordecai M. Noah and a graduate of the 1807 class at West Point, helped build the defenses of Brooklyn against an anticipated British attack during the War of 1812.

The first permanent Jewish settlers in Brooklyn are believed to have been Jewish businessmen, of Bavarian and Alsatian origina, who established themselves around lower Fulton Street in what is now the Boro Hall section. They arrived about 1834, the year Brooklyn received its municipal charter. The 1838 directory listed a Benjamin Levy as owner of a variety store; Daniel Levy, cartman; another Benjamin Levy, auctioneer, and a Moses family all with Fulton Street addresses.

Williamsburg, an independent town north of Brooklyn, developed a separate Jewish community. The earliest known Jewish resident was Adolph Baker, who settled in Williamsburg in 1837. Other Jews began crossing the East River in the 1840s and settling around Lower Grand Street. In 1855, Williamsburg and Brooklyn were amalgamated. (28)

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