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Longfellow and the Jewish Cemetery at Newport

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Memorial Commemorating the Cemetery’s History

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Memorial Commemorating the Cemetery’s History / Maine Historical Society

<em>How came they here? What burst of Christian hate,
What persecution, merciless and blind,
Drove o'er the sea -- that desert desolate --
These Ishmaels and Hagars of mankind?</em>

Longfellow's musings on what might have led the first Jews to Newport in the 17th century indicate that he knew a bit of their history.

Although there is debate regarding from whence the first families came, they were apparently mostly Portuguese (as were Judah Touro's ancestors).

In 1658 Mordecai Campanal and Moses Pacheco arrived from Barbados, and other families soon followed them from the West Indies.

Many of the first Jewish families on the East Coast of the United States were fleeing the Inquisition, which had recently spread to Brazil.

The religious tolerance offered in Roger Williams' Rhode Island, and only in Rhode Island, was a real lure. More than two centuries later, the community would again swell, this time with Askenazic Jews emigrating from Eastern Europe.


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