Nationwide, all ages celebrate the anniversary of Jewish communal life in America.
Teeing religious persecution
350 years ago this month, six
Dutch Jewish families living in
Recife, Brazil, headed for the New
World and landed in what is now
New York City. Not welcomed initial-
ly by Gov. Peter Stuyvesant, these "23
souls, big and little" eventually
became the first Jews to make their
home in this country.
American Jewish communities are
commemorating this 350th anniver-
sary of communal Jewish life in
America with a yearlong celebration
starting this month with local and
The effort is being coordinated by
Celebrate 350: Jewish Life in America
1654-2004, the national umbrella
established to provide resources, stim-
ulate ideas and serve as the network
hub for the yearlong activities. This
network involves hundreds of organi-
zations and thousands of individuals.
In Michigan, the effort comes under
the auspices of the local American
Jewish Committee. The Michigan
Coalition for the 350th Celebration
has attracted participants from more
than 50 Jewish organizations, includ-
ing the Jewish Historical Society of
Lady Liberty welcomes Jewish immigrants.
Michigan, B'nai B'rith Youth
Organization, Wayne State
guarantee of freedom," Cantor said.
University's Cohn Haddow Center
"For Jews, this is a chance to take pride
Cantor, the historian, sees the signifi-
and the Jewish Community Council
in our past and gain inspiration for the
of Metropolitan Detroit. The coalition cance of the Jewish legacy in America.
"When these Dutch Jews first
began planning events a year ago
Over the years, Jews have rewarded
arrived here, it was 120 years before
under the leadership of local Jewish
the American Revolution and religious the country that welcomed them and
historian Judy Levin Cantor.
have contributed to all aspects of
"As the year progressed, subcommit- freedom was not yet a right," said
Cantor. "Peter Stuyvesant told the 23
tees met and cultural, educational and
"Jews have had a special role in creat-
Jews to leave, but they appealed to the
religious programming took shape,"
ing the American experience and
Dutch West India Company in the
said Sharona Shapiro, AJC Michigan
America had an enormous role in cre-
Netherlands (Stuyvesant's employer),
area director. "The excitement was
ating this Jewish civilization. It's a two-
who told the governor to allow them
catching and everyone's enthusiasm
way street," said James August of West
to stay. These Jews had fought in the
Bloomfield, chair of the National
Dutch wars and had been merchants
State and local activities range from
Foundation for Jewish Culture in New
in the Dutch West India Company.
a special children's program at the
York and a member of the national
"But the governor added the stipu-
Jewish Community Center's Shalom
Celebrate 350 committee.
lation," Cantor said, "that they could
Street to a Detroit Symphony
In the entertainment industry alone,
stay provided 'the poor among them
Orchestra Pops concert featuring
added, Jewish entrepreneurs built
music by Jewish composers to
the movie industry in Hollywood and
Brandeis University historian Jonathan company or the community' And so
legends from Al Jolson to Leonard
began religious liberty in America.
Sarna speaking at the Jewish Book
Bernstein credited their Jewish
"This celebration is a chance for all
Fair to tours of Jewish Detroit given
upbringing for their inspiration.
Americans to appreciate their unique
by the Jewish Historical Society.
To get kids interested in their local,
national and personal history, Shalom
Street, the children's museum at the
Jewish Community Center in West
Bloomfield, is preparing interactive
displays and events for children ages
5-12, said Susan Citrin, immediate
past chair of the local Leonard A.
Simons Jewish Community Archives,
which is helping the museum with
Video cameras, tape recorders and a
list of questions will also be available
for children who want to interview
their grandparents, she said.
"It's exciting to turn kids on to their
history and to what it means to be
Jewish in America," Citrin said.
"They have to know where they fit
into this historical picture."
Other highlights of the state and
• The American Historical Theatre
of New York will present solo per-
former Dean Malissa as part of a pro-
gram for Hebrew educators on how to
bring historical characters to life in the
classroom, 1-4:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct.
10, at Yeshivat Akiva in Southfield.
For information, call Dale Rubin at
• Brandeis University historian
Jonathan Sarna speaks at the Jewish
Book Fair, 7:30 pm. Saturday, Nov.
13, at the JCC in West Bloomfield.
• An All-American Broadway 350th
DSO Pops Concert at the Max M.
Fisher Music Center in Detroit fea-
tures American Jewish composers
Berlin, Rodgers, Gershwin and
Bernstein, 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14.
For tickets, call the American Jewish
Committee at (248) 646-7686.
• The Jewish Historical Society of
Michigan continues its tour "Settlers
to Citizens: a 21st Century Tour of
Historical Detroit." (248) 661-1000.
• A historical exhibit, "350 Years of
Jewish Life in America," is on display
at Temple Israel through September
and will be shown again from Dec. 4-
• The JCC travel department is
planning a trip to see the national
touring exhibit about the 350th
anniversary in Washington, D.C.,
Nov. 15-19. Call Marilyn Wolfe,
350 YEARS! on page 34