Jews and the Americas

The acquisition of Judaica with an American connection was integral to John Carter Brown’s collecting interest as defined in 1846: every book relating to North and South America printed before 1801. But it was in the 1990s that the Library would begin to assess the separate character of this special aggregation of books within the greater collection. Beginning in 1990, each year’s Touro National Heritage Trust Research Fellows drew our attention to the largely undeveloped history of the Jews in the colonial Americas. The rich variety of separate, specialized studies of national traditions, such as Dutch America and Spanish America, suggested that much could be gained through interdisciplinary study encompassing the entire hemisphere. With careful advance planning, the Library organized the 1997 conference, “The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West: 1450 to the Revolutions for Independence in the Americas.” Paolo Bernardini and Norman Fiering, as organizers of the landmark conference, edited the collection of essays for wider dissemination in 2001. The essays conveyed not only the importance of our existing Judaica collection, but also provided the outlines of a greater field of material that we could aspire to own. The original concept of the current exhibition was launched by Fiering and Bernardini, and was much enriched by the ideas and commentary of a succession of Touro Fellows, including Moises Orfali and Holly Snyder.

Exhibition prepared by Dennis Landis, Curator of European Books.