Introduction (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Approximately five hundred Jews lived in the United States in 1700. The majority lived in the Newport, Rhode Island, area, while the rest settled primarily in New York City; Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Philadelphia. Newport was particularly attractive because of the relatively liberal political administration of Roger Williams, who vied for a strict separation of church and state. There is little evidence to indicate a concentrated persecution of the Jews in any of the original American colonies. Many of the cultural values with which Jews were identified, such as thrift, industry, and a devout adherence to the word of God, were also values of a Puritan America; by the time of the First Continental Congress in 1774, when the chafe of British oversight had become intolerable, the colonists may well have felt an immediate kinship with the Jews in their midst. After all, Jews personified the Protestant work ethic, and many colonists believed that they, like the Jews, were God’s chosen people, badly abused by a powerful nation.
(The entire section is 169 words.)
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