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May2009
HOME It’s (Not) a Small World After All Message in a Bottle An Architecture of Plurality Linked By Law Totally YouTubular Languages on Loan What Started as a Haven . . . Became a Home
What Started as a Haven . . . Became a Home

From the time of its discovery, America has been a haven for Europe's oppressed and persecuted. In 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World, the Spanish Inquisition reached its peak. Spain expelled its Jews and, five years later, Portugal did the same. Iberian Jewry found refuge in the cities and towns of Europe, North Africa and the Near East, and, in the first half of the 17th century, some of their descendants established communities in Dutch-ruled Brazil.

"America gains a famous citizen," 1940 "Waiting for the Forwards," 1913

In 1654, Portugal recaptured Brazil and expelled its Jewish settlers. Most returned to Holland or moved to Protestant-ruled colonies in the Caribbean. A group of 23 Jewish refugees arrived in New Amsterdam (New York City today) hoping to settle and build a new home for themselves. In the years that followed, the growing Jewish community pressed the authorities to extend to them rights offered to other settlers, including the right to trade and travel, stand guard, own property, establish a cemetery, erect a house of worship and participate fully in the political process.

For Jews, the promise of America was deeply rooted in its commitment to religious liberty. George Washington's declaration in 1790 to the Newport Hebrew Congregation that America gives "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance," provided the Jewish community with an early assurance of America's suitability as a haven.

From Haven to Home: A Library of Congress Exhibition Marking 350 Years of Jewish Life in America" was on view in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building September - December 2004. You can now view the exhibition online.

The exhibition features more than 200 treasures of American Judaica from the collections of the Library of Congress, augmented by a selection of important loans from other cooperating cultural institutions.

Dozens of extraordinary exhibitions are available from the Library's Web site. "With an Even Hand: Brown v. Board at Fifty marks the May 17, 1954, Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, declaring that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" draws on the unparalleled collections of the world's largest library in a rotating permanent exhibitions of the most interesting, rarest and most unusual materials of Americana.

More than 40 other exhibitions can be explored at the Library's online exhibitions site.


A. Al Aumuller, photographer. "America gains a famous citizen," 1940. Photograph shows Albert Einstein receiving from Judge Phillip Forman his certificate of American citizenship.

B. Lewis Wickes Hine, photographer. "Waiting for the Forwards," 1913. This photograph of newsboys was taken at 1:15 a.m. on the steps of the building where the Jewish daily the Forward was produced on New York's Lower East Side. According to Hine, the group included a number of boys as young as 10 years old. The newsboy in the first row is holding copies of Wahrheit [Truth], a Yiddish daily newspaper that stressed Jewish national aspirations. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-nclc-03863 (color digital file from b&w original print), LC-USZC4-12522 (color film copy transparency), LC-USZ62-134588 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: LOT 7480, v. 3, no. 3347[P&P]